Lowriders are motorized time capsules that command respect, or at the very least, a head turn. In Sacramento, the lowrider scene is palpable on sight, with Broadway a favorite strut. We were having a drink on this stretch a few months ago when my wife and I saw a couple of cars with nobody sitting shotgun. Instead, pairs of young, done-up couples cuddled in the back, being chauffeured to their high school proms in style.
“My dad did that for me,” she said, describing the ’64-1/2 Mustang I first heard years ago the night I met my now father-in-law. And though not a lowrider, the Mustang was a specialized car nonetheless—and a memory.
Maybe it’s a byproduct of growing up in southern California’s eastern sprawl, the San Gabriel Valley—where we tell generational time by new shopping mall ribbon cuttings, freeway expansion dates, and handed down cars—but seeing a lowrider makes me and many others feel welcome.
Last December, I was driving my mom to her post-op appointment in Downey, south of downtown Los Angeles, from the east-of-east side in Pomona. We started on the freeways before taking the surface streets, my mom navigating us through the paths of her childhood neighborhood—La Puente’s Bassett—along Workman Mills Road, avoiding the bumper to bumper traffic of the 10-605 interchange. We were near Pico Rivera when we saw a street sign saying No Cruising, prohibiting vehicles from moving slowly or returning to the same stretch of road multiple times.
These signs and subsequent “no cruise zones” were part of a wave of legislation passed throughout California cities through the ‘80s and ‘90s. Though largely unenforced today, these laws are increasingly being written off the books, with Sacramento being the first city to repeal their cruising ban and removing such signage citywide.
When San Jose quickly followed suit, City Council member Raul Peralez spoke of his experiences driving and facing police harassment. “Over the years, I was stopped dozens of times by the police,” Peralez said, “And nearly every time, I was made to sit on a curb while I and my car were searched. I was questioned about presumed gang involvement.”
Categorizing cruising as a gang activity or on par with the illegal assemblage of a psychedelic-fueled warehouse rave is ironic now considering how integral lowrider imagery is to the city of Los Angeles’ brand identity. The traffic and pedestrian ribbon cutting of the newly camelbacked 6th Street bridge, connecting East and downtown Los Angeles over the LA River, was led by a local lowrider collective.
Chauffeuring my mom. I imagined all the kids cruising on Friday nights, in lowriders or not, with big bangs and acid-washed denim, hollering at each other across open windows trying to get someone’s number. But the sign, prohibiting vehicles from moving slowly, reminded me of its target—us.
Lowriding’s social undertones have been palpable since its wartime infancy into the Chicano movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Roberto Hernandez formed the San Francisco Lowrider Council to combat waves of police brutality, leading not just to legalized cruises, but new parks, services, and the resignation of cops accused by Mission District residents of abuse. Victor Ochoa’s recent mural in San Diego’s Barrio Logan documents the history of the local Brown Image Car Club. Of the vignettes encompassing the pillars of a massive freeway underpass is a scene where some of the crew’s members participated in the occupation of Chicano Park.
On the cusp of the city of Sacramento repealing the ban in June, the Sacramento Lowrider Commission worked with city officials to host a free all-day event in William Land Park. Lines of cars lined the block, some fully tilted with wheels held in the air like a sculpture with an engine behind it. Other older cars had subtle intricate designs, like one car that tells the history of Mexican and Filipino farm worker movement through airbrushed designs.
This summer, the United Farm Workers marched through the Central Valley—over 300 miles and three weeks from Delano to Sacramento—advocating for Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign AB 2183, the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. The UFW’s website says the act would allow farm workers to “vote free from intimidation…in secret whenever and wherever they feel safe.” Local lowrider chapters have been supporting their efforts throughout the Valley, and Sacramento’s Coalition helped escort marchers from the city’s Southside Park to the state capitol for a massive rally held on August 26th. A vigil was erected and held nonstop on the Capitol steps for days, drawing awareness to Gov. Newsom’s deadline to sign AB 2183 — a move publicly supported by President Biden himself. The pressure worked and Gov. Newsom signed the bill into law with two provisions just before the September 30th deadline.
The August rally reminded me of that previous event a few months earlier at William Land Park. At one point, all of the women organizers and drivers from the different Sacramento lowrider crews gathered on stage, with many speaking about a lifetime dedicated to taking a cruise. Hearing them, I really understood the affirming power of cruising on your own terms—and the ability to articulate them. We are law abiding, many organizers repeatedly say in fliers and public comment, a community trying to find spaces to do something they consider culturally significant.
In February 2023, Assemblymember David Alvarez (D-San Diego) introduced AB 436 which “removes the authorization for a local authority to adopt rules and regulations regarding cruising,” essentially creating a statewide repeal of anti-cruising legislation.
As local lowrider chapters advocate towards related causes affecting the greater Latino community, the evolution and acceptance of lowrider culture cannot be ignored. It’s something unique to the state. To invite others to bear witness, to embrace that feeling — that head turn, jaw slack, mouth opening, fist-to-mouth gasp — when time stops and that four wheel soulful strut passes through. I think that feeling has a word: respect.
Indeed I live in the dark ages! A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens A hard heart. He who laughs Has not yet heard The terrible tidings.
Ah, what an age it is When to speak of trees is almost a crime For it is a kind of silence about injustice! And he who walks calmly across the street, Is he not out of reach of his friends In trouble?
Bertolt Brecht, On Posterity
September 2022, Claremont, CA
All through the blistering heatwave that has held Southern California in a vice, I’ve been thinking about Mike. Mike Davis is dying. Esophageal cancer that won’t go away. Last month he opted for palliative care; the end can’t be too far off. The heatwave has another three days to run. Here, in Claremont, it has been around 78 degrees at dawn, climbing to a long hot afternoon plateau as high as 110. I could drive, air-con blazing, to other air-conditioned spaces, but even the short walks across searing hot car parks are unpleasant. Not so much the heat itself, but the deep sense it communicates, that something is very wrong.
I feel it, I think, somewhere deeper than the conscious mind, somewhere buried in the ancient brain stem that stores our trauma and turns it into networks of toxic neurons. So, teaching and food shopping aside, I’m just bunkering down in Professor Davina’s place with its clattering vintage air-con: yoga twice a day, a lot of stillness, just breathing, being in my creaky body… and thinking about Mike.
Mike Davis is one of my guiding stars. I’ve read everything he has ever written, much of it twice. When in 1991, as a grad student in England, I picked up City of Quartz, his polycentric history of Los Angeles, and I couldn’t put it down. I was captivated by its account of the city’s illusions and mythologies, alongside the realities of its racist policing and its fortified architecture. I couldn’t believe sociology or history or theory (it intuitively shape-shifts) could be so smart and sassy, so sharp and stylish, saying it like it is, but wow, saying it like Raymond Chandler. Turns out Mike hates Chandler, for his misogyny, his racism, his small-minded individualism and his amoral fatalistic fascism, but he also can’t stop reading him. I can’t stop reading Mike, and though I’ve never met him, I have at least walked in his footsteps. Back in the 1990s, during one his many periods of financial difficulty and professional limbo, he came and taught at Pitzer college. And I have done much the same. In over a decade of living in and exploring Los Angeles he has been my constant guide and made this strange but extraordinary metropolis at least comprehensible.
A lot of writers might have just left it there. Whole academic careers have been sustained on slighter contributions than City of Quartz, but Mike was a late starter. A meat cutter, trucker and trade union activist in his late teens and twenties, he didn’t show up at UCLA for his degree until he was 30. Impressive as the book was, it was mere prelude, the curtain raiser to two decades of superhuman scholarship and activism. Magical Urbanism surveys the Latino transformation of the American city and its progressive political and aesthetic potential. Planet of Slums, by contrast, was a cadastral survey of the informal settlements that house more than three billion people, in the mega cities of the twenty-first century. Buda’s Wagon was a short and brilliant history of the car bomb and asymmetrical warfare, from Italian-American anarchists to al-Qaeda. Mid Victorian Holocausts is a masterpiece of environmental history, explaining the origins of the global south at the intersection of Victorian imperialism and the El Nino weather events of the era that generated famines, deaths and environmental degradation of such a scale that the gap between North and South became a chasm. In The Monster to Come, a short essay on coronaviruses, avian flu and epidemiology in an era of globalization, published in 2009, he accurately predicted the emergence and course of the COVID pandemic. I could go on…..and on.
His third book, Ecology of Fear sits on my desk. I feel right now like I’m not reading it but living it. So, I’m lucky that Professor Davina’s house, where miraculously I have landed, is a good antidote. Born in the rural Philippines in the 1920’s she arrived in California in her forties and lived here for nearly half a century. For thirty years she was the first Filipina professor of theology in California, teaching at Chaffey Community College. I drink my tea out of a college mug saying “we’re here to help”. The last couple of decades she was retired and mainly alone; three kids who had moved on and a second husband, Milt, who died fifteen years ago. Professor Davina died last year, and her daughter Dodi just didn’t have it in her to sort and clear the house: grief, Covid, losing her own partner just three months after her mother, and then breast cancer and surgery. So, the house has sat empty until I arrived, part caretaker, part tenant.
There are still a few reminders of Davina’s last couple of years—walkers gathering dust, mobility aids in her bathroom—but it’s the rest of her long life that is really present. Dodi told me she had tried to clear some away, but the house is crammed with ecumenical knick- knacks: a seder plate on the wall above the kitchen table, inspirational quotes from a Native American shaman on grubby fridge magnets, statuettes of Confucius and the Buddha, a chopping board from the United Methodists Church, Hindu figurines, Islamic banners. In her office and the living room a lifetime of study, encyclopedias of comparative religion, bibles, Korans, torahs….
One pleasing quirk of the house is the absence of plastic. Dodi said, “She was an environmentalist before her time. She hated plastic.” Look around, the house is full of wood and ceramics, textiles and glass, bamboo, rattan and metal, but literally no plastic. She preferred bone handled knives and wicker basket bins, and all in shades of white and beige and brown and bronze. Clingfilm was allowed, as a cupboard of maybe a dozen huge rolls testifies, but only as an alternative to using Tupperware. Sure, her computer kit and TV are plastic, but I sense they were not much loved. On the shelves in her office there are, carefully organized and catalogued, the products of old analogue technologies—cameras in leather cases, teaching slides in cardboard boxes dozens of photo albums, and half dozen metal rolodexes. On the inside of the food cupboard is an old, typed list, probably from the 1980s, of small environmental actions that we might take—use what you buy, write on both sides of your note paper, choose the lesser of two evils. Its tone is humble and practical, and although the advice feels hopelessly inadequate, it’s a better voice to listen to than my own sense of creeping doom.
It helps make the house a good place to hide from the heat through the long afternoons. Conscious of the antiquity of the air conditioning system—and the impossibility of getting it repaired right now—I try and nurse it, keeping the thermostat at 71 degrees, but as the sun passes from the front of the house over the roof and into the back garden it can’t keep up. The internal temperature climbs and climbs and I find myself dozing uneasily on the sofa, unable to move. Yesterday my siesta was broken by a series of noisy, unignorable urgent sounds from my British and American cell phones. It’s a text from California’s energy agencies letting us now that the level of demand for electricity is reaching break point. If, for the next few hours, we don’t all turn off everything short of the AC then we are looking at rolling outages and blackouts. I turn out the lights, leave my washing and cooking to later, light a few of the professor’s devotional candles and get back to Mike and Ecology of Fear.
The book’s basic premise is that to build a metropolis of near fifteen million people in a desert is not sustainable. Make it exclusively dependent on the private motor car, and you are really in trouble. Add the fire hazards on the wooded slopes of Los Angeles’ hills and mountains, and the insatiable demand for water that simply isn’t there and disaster looms. Now factor in another two decades of climate change since the book was written and the city, right now, is close to unlivable and only so at the price of more massive carbon emissions.
Then there is the San Andreas fault, the geological atom bomb that runs through the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. Tremors are a dime a dozen here, though as I know from my own quivering disbelief on experiencing one, no less unnerving for that. The last time the fault really bared its teeth was the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. It is, by historic standards, due to do so again, sometime soon. Professor Davina had been making preparations. In the garage, beneath a dusty bunch of yellow plastic roses, I find the remnants of a basic earthquake stash—eight big plastic bottles of water, torches, batteries, first aid kit. I’m not sure any of it will be much use when the big one comes and make a mental note to assemble my own.
I sit inside nearly all day. After about 1:00 pm the sun has passed over the front of the house, and outside the front door there is a small pool of hot shade. The small park opposite is entirely empty. For a couple of hours after dawn there is a smattering of dog walkers and determined joggers, but then there is no one until dusk. Huge SUVs, sparkling white and black and silver, occasionally glide past. I listen to the rumble of the 210 freeway, just a hundred meters north of us, the hum of my neighbor’s air conditioner, watch the vapor trails of planes heading to and from LAX.
Only as the sun is going down do I make my way to the back garden. It’s still fearsomely hot, but at least I can look at the smog rainbow sunset and the San Gabriel Mountains. In past summers there still would have been a sprinkling of snow on the high peaks, but they are brown and bare. The smog is still with us. I can see that once the garden was a beautiful space with pomegranate, cherry and apricot trees and dozens of fabulous huge succulents. Since Professor Davina died the drip hoses and sprinklers have broken and there has been no watering at all. Southern California is in the midst of an unprecedented three-year long drought, so there hasn’t been much help from the weather. Now the apricot and cherry trees are dead, their few remaining leaves are crisped to a dark brown. The succulents, still just hanging on, have shrunk, and shriveled and shed what leaves they have held onto to survive. But they are a sorry sight—desiccated mutant versions of themselves. The pomegranate has, amazingly, hung on, and is even bearing fruit. I can’t bear to pick them. It seems, after such herculean botanical efforts, too cruel to take it. Dodi has arranged for landscapers to take out the dead, put in new drips and drought resistant plants, maybe save the pomegranate and the succulents. I tend and water my little collection of newly potted tomatoes and basil. They are surviving.
It doesn’t take much to join the dots here. But as the news from home, where the government is arresting people demanding that the country’s aging housing be fitted with better insulation suggests, the economic and political elites of this world are willfully refusing to do so. I’m reading Mike again, in what will probably be his last interview, and, as ever, he condenses my thoughts, and finds words to pierce my heart.
“Our ruling classes everywhere have no rational analysis or explanation for the immediate future. A small group of people have more concentrated power over the human future than ever before in human history, and they have no vision, no strategy, no plan.”
So, what to do? On one of the many occasional tables scattered around Professor Davina’s house, alongside a carved wooden cockerel from the Philippines and a dusty menorah, lies a small, cardboard oval. It is threaded with old string for hanging on a wall, but it has been left on the table. I didn’t notice it for the first week I was here. Then, for no reason at all, I stopped and looked at it. In thick embossed silver script it says “hope”. Its kitsch and its corny, but right now I’ll take corny.
Last week in a press conference PSG star Kilian Mbappe and coach Christophe Galtier were asked why the team took a private jet from Paris to Nantes, just a few hundred kilometers away and accessible by TGV. They both laughed. Galtier quipped, “This morning we talked about it with the company which organizes our trips and we’re looking into traveling on sand yachts.” I showed it my students. It was electric. For the next forty minutes we explored how sports is connected to the climate crisis and what it might do about it. The power and responsibilities of athletic celebrity, the inequality of carbon emissions and climate impacts, football in Africa in a heating world, how climate change affected their own play (lots them are on the college soccer team), and a dozen other things. They were a mix of amazed, curious, angry—and ignited. For all the detail what was really going on was the sound of hundreds of pennies dropping; the slot machine of education hitting the jackpot.
Afterwards, thinking about Mbappe laughing and his smooth ephebic forehead, I made the connection back to Brecht. Of course, it was Mike, whose breadth of reading has never ceased to amaze and please me, that got me back to On Posterity. In the time left to him he says he’s doing a lot of family time, watching Scandinavian noir and reading Brecht. He said:
“I’ve always been influenced by the poems Brecht wrote in the late 30s, during the Second World War, after everything had been incinerated, all the dreams and values of an entire generation destroyed, and Brecht said, ‘Well, it’s a new dark ages….how do people resist in the dark ages?'”
Brecht, in the end offers pretty thin gruel. He knows it and asks us, “Do not judge us too harshly.” I need more than that. Mike Davis, for me, just nails it, “Despair is useless.”
What keeps us going, ultimately, is our love for each other, and our refusal to bow our heads, to accept the verdict, however all-powerful it seems. It’s what ordinary people have to do. You have to love each other. You have to defend each other. You have to fight.
So, I’m writing this and sending it to you because I love you (and Mike Davis, and Professor Davina, and my Pitzer college students), and I’m trying not to bow my head, and to find my way to be a part of our mutual defiance, for what I’m worth. If you want to fight, I’m all ears, but love is also allowed, and if you want to go read some Mike Davis, then that’s good too.
Mike Davis left us in late October. The heatwave gave way to a long hot autumn, and then the cataclysmic storm and rains of late December 2022 and early January 2023. Professor Davina’s house held up and Dodi and I have made a start on sifting and sorting it.
David Goldblatt is a sports writer, broadcaster, sociologist, journalist, author, and visiting professor of sociology at Pitzer College.
However polite its title, the 1891 “Petition to the Senators and Representatives of the Congress of the United States in the Behalf of the Remnants of the former Tribes of the Yosemite Indians Praying for Aid and Assistance” was anything but deferential.
The petition offered a blunt critique of the mostly white gold miners’ brutal incursion into the Yosemite region in the late 1840s. It sharply criticized the state-sanctioned violence that California unleashed in the 1850s on the Indigenous Peoples of the Central Sierra, and astutely recognized that elite tourists—and the amenities they required to cushion their late nineteenth-century visits to the rugged landscape—were also responsible for cultural disruption and physical dispossession. The petition reported that the previous half century of exploitation had turned the Ahwahneechii and Monos into “poorly-clad paupers and unwelcome guests, silently the objects of curiosity or contemptuous pity to the throngs of strangers who yearly gather in this our own land and heritage.”
The once fertile and sustaining terrain of the Indigenous Peoples had been torn apart. “The gradual destruction of its trees, the occupancy of every foot of its territory by bands of grazing horses and cattle, the decimation of the fish in the river, the destruction of every means of support for ourselves and families by the rapacious acts of the whites,” the petition asserted, would “shortly result in the total exclusion of the remaining remnants of our tribes from this our beloved valley, which has been ours from time beyond our faintest traditions, and which we still claim.”
The US government did not respond to this appeal for the return of tribal lands, an ironclad treaty that would protect their inheritance, and compensation for their decades of immiseration. Instead, the petition, to which forty-three survivors put their names, was buried in the 1891 report of Yosemite’s acting park superintendent. But its bureaucratic fate doesn’t diminish its importance any more than does the probability that the document’s amanuensis was a Euro-American fluent in English. The oral histories on which the petition depends, and, as anthropologist Ed Castillo observed, the “incredible description” it provides of the “political, military, and ecological factors driving remaining tribesmen from their valley could only have as their source local Indigenous knowledge.”
That knowledge, and the distressing catalogue of injustices it contains, is an important challenge to settler-colonial justifications for How the West Was Won. One facet of that master narrative also centers on Yosemite National Park— by the time tourists arrived to “ooh and ahhh” over its iconic waterfalls, steep granite walls, and staggering vistas, the land was “empty.” Its putative emptiness, the result of violent dispossession, set the stage for an early twentieth-century, decade-long battle over whether to build a dam in the park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley. The dam’s proponents, including federal officials, as well as citizens and politicians in San Francisco eager to secure a stable water supply following the 1906 earthquake that devastated the city, believed the dam was emblematic of Progressive Era reforms that provided essential—and publicly owned—resources to a rapidly urbanizing society. John Muir, founding president of the Sierra Club, which was established in 1892, was among those who pushed back, arguing that the dam’s construction would inundate the wild Hetch Hetchy Valley. “Dam Hetch Hetchy!” he thundered, “as well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated for the heart of man.”
What neither side admitted was that their respective arguments depended on a shared perception that no one lived in the Hetch Hetchy Valley., or that no had ever lived there. Its emptiness enabled dam supporters to conclude that the site would be perfect for a reservoir. Its emptiness, for those like Muir who pressed for the valley’s preservation, was a mark of its higher utility as pristine nature. Yet to conceive of this valley as devoid of people required two forms of erasure of the history and contemporary status of the Indigenous Peoples that their 1891 petition so brilliantly evoked.
The first erasure occurred in the mid-nineteenth century, when California and the United States governments sanctioned the violent expulsion of the Indigenous Peoples from the Sierras’s flanking valleys and foothills. The dispossession of the Miwok, Paiute, Shoshone, and others from their ancestral territories was an act of genocide, historian Benjamin Madley argues in American Genocide. He writes: the “pressures of demographics (the migration of hundreds of thousands of immigrants), economics (the largest gold rush in US history), and profound racial hatred all made the genocide possible, it took sustained political will—at both the federal and state levels—to create the laws, policies, and well-funded killing machine that carried it out and ensured its continuation over decades.”
The second erasure is embedded in the continuing and disquieting silence over the interlocking connection between the ruthless uprooting of Indigenous Peoples from the Yosemite region, the establishment of the national park, and the subsequent Hetch Hetchy controversy. Until that silence is broken, our understanding of the ongoing debate about the dam and reservoir will remain incomplete. This accounting is especially necessary because scholars and activists assert that the formative battle over the Hetch Hetchy dam marked the birth of the modern environmental movement in the United States. The assertion reveals a troubling and complicated story.
Muir was integral to each of these erasures. Consider his reflections that he jotted down in his journal after a hike up what he called Bloody Canyon in Mono County and then revised for publication in his book The Mountains of California 1894). Entering the pass, the “huge rocks began to close around in all their wild, mysterious impressiveness,” Muir wrote, “when suddenly, as I gazed eagerly about me, a drove of gray, hairy beings came into sight., lumbering toward with a kind of boneless, wallowing motion like bears.” Anxious about “so grim a company,” and suppressing his fears, he realized “that although hairy as bears and as crooked as summit pines, the strange creatures were sufficiently erect to belong to our own species.” He was hiking up a trail that the Mono and other Indigenous Peoples had worn smooth over the millennia, transiting between the Mono and Owens basins and Yosemite and the valleys below. His disdain for these men and women shows throughout his descriptions, such as, “the dirt on their faces was fairly stratified and seemed so ancient and so undisturbed it might almost possess a geological significance.” To Muir they belonged to a distant time, and befouled his wilderness. “Somehow they seemed to have no right place in the landscape, and I was glad to see them fading out of sight down the pass.”
The larger settler-colonial culture adopted his perspective and, whether Indigenous Peoples were forced out of Yosemite by force of arms or the scratch of a pen, a key consequence was that this “empty” terrain was ripe for commercial exploitation. Tourism to the region, enabled by a growing cross-continental transportation grid, and the growth of San Francisco and Los Angeles, was fueled by artists and photographers who visited the region a decade or more before Muir’s arrival there in 1868. James Mason Hutchings, who hired Muir to work at his Yosemite hotel, was a relentless promoter. He drew a swelling number of artists, scientists, and tourists to make the arduous journey to the remote location through his publication of tour guides, lithographs, and magazine articles about Yosemite’s wonders and curiosities. Many of these visitors recounted their experiences in the rough and wild space, some published, others not. However manifest, these documents reinforced the cultural conversation about what they perceived to be Yosemite’s prime value—a beneficent refuge in an industrializing world, where you could escape civilization, and yet have its amenities.
The sanctuary status was one of the key arguments that Muir and others developed in the early twentieth century against the city of San Francisco and its political allies who laid claim to the Hetch Hetchy Valley inside what became Yosemite National Park. The thrust and counterthrust manifested in a series of congressional hearings, in the pages of many of the nation’s leading magazines and newspapers, and in oft angry speeches. The fierce debate testifies to the centrality of a valley that few Americans had ever visited. Even though San Francisco’s interests prevailed, and the O’Shaughnessy Dam and its steep-walled reservoir that funnels potable water to the Bay Area was built, the controversy continues to simmer. Beginning in the 1980s, an odd coalition of Republican state and national politicians and the Sierra Club and its allies periodically call into question San Francisco’s reliance on the reservoir and urge the federal government to tear down the dam and restore the long-submerged valley.
Yet any resolution of this enduring latest struggle to define the future of Hetch Hetchy, and by extension Yosemite, must start by prioritizing what hitherto has been ignored. Novelist, historian, and activist David Treuer writes, “America’s national parks comprise only a small fraction of the land stolen from Native Americans, but they loom large in the broader story of our dispossession.” His pithy conclusion—”the American West began with war but concluded with parks”—is mirrored in the Yosemite Indigenous Peoples’ claims asserted in the 1891 petition: “We say this valley was not given to us by our fathers for a day, or a year, but for all time.”
Char Miller is the W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis and History at Pomona College and the director of the Claremont Colleges‘ environmental analysis program.
Adapted from The Unnaming of Kroeber Hall: Language, Memory, and Indigenous California, by Andrew Garrett, published by The MIT Press (to appear in 2023).
It rained for ten days in late February and early March 1911. “Enough Water to Last All Summer” was the Sacramento Bee headline. Juan Dolores was stuck inside, unable to do the work that had brought him to the state capital. Instead, he spent 14 hours a day writing out a story in O’odham, the Indigenous language of his childhood, family, and people in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. Writing all 2,873 words took him seven days; a precise English translation took two more. He finished at 11 pm, went to bed, and dreamed about translating O’odham.
Dolores described his dream in a letter: “I saw words appearing on the wall, like [a] moving picture show. First a word would go clear across the wall and then automatically arrange itself into two or three words. Sometimes there would be only one letter and under it, would be two or three English words. When I awoke, I said this is no dream. It is the correct way of writing the Indian language.” He emphasized the semantic complexity of O’odham: “I have to write t[w]o or three English words for one Indian word.”
The story Juan Dolores finished writing in March 1911 was one of dozens that he wrote and rewrote in a lifetime devoted to documenting the O’odham language. When he died in 1948, he left thousands of manuscript pages and over 60 sound recordings of his own voice and the voices of elders he recorded. Dolores was “the first writer of his people’s legends,” to quote a later romanticized formulation, and he did write many creation stories (“legends”). He also transcribed oratory, vocabulary, the autobiographies of elders, the words of songs and what they signify, and a memoir of his Arizona childhood in the 1880s and 1890s. For four decades from 1909 to 1948, he did most of this language work as a University of California researcher and museum employee.
The University of California does not memorialize such details, but Dolores may have been its first Indigenous employee. He was almost certainly its first Indigenous researcher. Yet though he is well known to O’odham people in Arizona, in Berkeley he is almost forgotten. His career and life reveal the challenges facing an Indigenous scholar and writer within the academy in the first half of the twentieth century, as well as his profound achievements in the face of such challenges.
Dolores was born about 1880 on the Mexican side of the border dividing a transnational O’odham community. His parents moved the family to the US, where Dolores enrolled in government schools in Arizona and Colorado. In 1898, he entered the Hampton Institute, a primarily Black college in Virginia, graduating in 1901 and continuing for a year in a postgraduate course. In his last student years, Dolores showed his aptitude as a writer, publishing a short creation story (a “legend”) in TheIndian Advance and a valedictory perspective, “As an Indian Sees It,” in the Hampton Institute’s monthly magazine.
In 1901, Dolores spoke at the Nineteenth Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian, a meeting of white philanthropists who thought they knew what was best for Indigenous people. His speech recounted the words of an O’odham elder who had asked: “What is that thought so great and so sacred that cannot be expressed in our own language, that we should seek to use the white man’s words?” Credited to an elder rather than in his own persona, this was a polite rebuke of his hosts, who favored the assimilation of Indigenous people into Euro-American culture and the elimination of tribal authority. It was also a repudiation of language practices that brutalized children throughout the US, at schools whose students were taught Euro-American ways and severely disciplined if they spoke their languages.
Dolores had been one of those students. He did not know English when he first entered the Tucson Indian School. If students were overheard speaking an Indigenous language, he later wrote in his O’odham-language memoir, the teachers “would punish us with the mule whip, or would give us extra work, or would lock us up in the dark house.” But he channeled his linguistic commitment into subversive play. If a teacher happened to say an English word that sounded like O’odham, Dolores would whisper that to the other students. Ita tcitcivitak hepay ha’itcu sta’a’askima o’otamkatc, he wrote: “this was very funny in O’odham.” Sometimes one of the others “could not control herself and she would just burst out laughing. I was delighted. I was constantly listening for words that would sound funny in O’odham.”
Dolores headed back west after his school years. Seasonal work as a teamster and skilled laborer took him to Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and California. It was in San Francisco that he met the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber in 1909. The two men — one in his early thirties, the other a few years younger — had very different backgrounds but converging goals.
Kroeber, born in 1876 to a middle-class German-American family in New York, had come to the University of California in 1901 after finishing a Columbia University anthropology PhD. His central research mission was recording Indigenous languages and stories. Many aspects of culture interested him, but he had shifted to anthropology from literature and once said that his “actual work will always be literature.” His main legacy a century later is the documentation of languages, speech, stories, and songs that Indigenous people in California and elsewhere shared in their work with him, his students, and his colleagues.
Like most contemporary Euro-Americans, Kroeber believed mistakenly that Native American cultures and languages were “dying” or even “extinct.” Recording them whenever possible was seen as urgent by some anthropologists and many Indigenous people themselves. Their purposes were not the same. Researchers like Kroeber thought Native languages and stories could make world culture more ecumenical and culturally tolerant, while Indigenous people understood that they were making records for their own communities.
Indigenous cultures did not die out, of course. Some languages remain vital, too, despite policies of language oppression in government schools. Others are in peril, with just a few elders who grew up with language in the home; or dormant, without speakers but with people who want to learn. Throughout California in 2023, as communities reclaim their languages and stories from archives, what prescient ancestors shared and wrote down a hundred years ago is given new life every day.
Kroeber knew that Indigenous people themselves, with the proper tools, could transcribe their own languages better than outsiders like himself. So part of his work included teaching Indigenous people how to write their languages — in Dolores’s case, the O’odham language he had been whipped for speaking in school. Together, Dolores and Kroeber worked out a quasi-phonetic spelling system for O’odham. With this, Dolores began what would be his life’s work.
Dolores’s employment was itinerant for many years. The University of California hired him for O’odham language work with Kroeber in 1909 and 1911-13. According to UC records, he was first a regular “employee” (rather than a consultant or contractor) in April 1912. Until 1916 he worked for the UC anthropology museum in San Francisco, where his duties included public lectures on O’odham culture. In 1918-19, he held a UC research fellowship to engage in linguistic fieldwork, recording O’odham elders in Arizona.
In 1926, Dolores returned permanently to university work. He had worked outside academia since 1919, but he had health problems as well as a strong desire to resume O’odham linguistic research. Toward the end of 1925, he was hospitalized in Los Angeles with chest pain and an infected foot. He used a cane after he left the hospital. “My speed is about that of a snail,” Dolores wrote with his usual dark humor. “A continuous strain through these five months has now deprived me of my good looks and all that is left of me is courage.” Bruce Bryan, an archaeologist at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, told Dolores in February that he might be able to hire him in a month or so. Meanwhile, Dolores reported, “the pain inside of me got worse” and he used crutches for a while. He told Kroeber that he wanted to continue “that work I started with you some years ago” and that an O’odham dictionary “will give me something to do for a long time.” Otherwise, he lamented, “I shall have to sell shoestrings and chewing-gum for my living.”
So it was that Dolores resumed full-time UC museum work for ten years beginning in 1926; in 1931, the anthropology museum moved from San Francisco to Berkeley. In 1936 and 1937, Dolores managed a government-funded research project at the University of Chicago, focusing on the lives of Mexican immigrants. He returned again to Berkeley and his museum job late in 1937, eventually retiring as a “senior preparator” a few weeks before his death in 1948.
The presence of an Indigenous scholar in conventionally white spaces fascinated newspapers and presumbly their readers. In 1911, the Dolores-Kroeber collaboration occasioned a San Francisco Examiner article steeped in dehumanizing language ideologies. “Gestures are a part of [Dolores’s] speech,” the writer opined. “If he broke his arm he could not talk.” The O’odham language was said to express “common English thoughts” with comically long words. Only a month later, ironically, Dolores would recount his dream showing that two or three English words may correspond to one short O’odham word — precisely inverting the Examiner trope.
In 1927, a reporter found it newsworthy that an Indigenous person worked in a university museum. Why, Dolores was asked, had he chosen the job? His answer demonstrates how effectively US acculturation policies had trapped many Indigenous people:
Indian life and customs as I knew them when a boy are more faithfully represented here in showcases than they are on the reservation. Nothing would suit me better than to live as my fathers lived, hunting and fishing and gathering fruit and berries. There is plenty of time for one to think then. But if I were to try to live that way now, I would be arrested for trespass or something.
American practices had removed Indigenous cultural heritage to museums, and kept Native people from living on their own land. Even those who had adopted new ways were subject to Euro-American whims:
I might possibly go back to Arizona and work on a piece of land I have fenced in there — my grandfather was one of the first men in our tribe to raise cattle under his own brand — but I have seen so many of my friends work for years on land and then be evicted by some court order or entanglement in titles, that I wouldn’t dare improve my piece for fear some white man would decide it was worth having.
These comments were quite candid for a medium that often celebrated white benevolence.
Even in 1935, it was national news when Dolores married Sylva Beyer, a UC anthropology graduate student. It made the front page in Oakland (“U.C. Co-ed and Indian Marry”) and Tucson (“Indian and White Woman Marry”). The story ran in Minnesota, and the Oakland Tribune even published a follow-up. Kroeber was the witness at a civil ceremony that was of broader interest only because it challenged assumptions about who belonged in elite spaces.
Dolores published four academic papers on his language. Two presented information about nouns and verbs, respectively; in another, for a volume in honor of Kroeber, he wrote about nicknames. A fourth paper, co-authored with University of California anthropologist Lila O’Neale, was a novel study of O’odham color terminology, showing how it is embedded in its cultural and environmental contexts. As a person’s hair turns white, they wrote, there is a stage when “the head looks … like ground [saguaro] cactus seeds … The kernel is white, but the bits of crushed black shell in the mixture give the whole an appearance of gray, or skaima’ki” (in Dolores’s O’odham spelling). This was two decades before cross-cultural differences in color naming became a prominent object of anthropological and linguistic study.
Dolores also tried to publish the O’odham stories he assembled over many years. Kroeber said his “new way of writing stories” in English might attract general interest, different as it was from the style of academics and “literary people” alike. “I will try to get them placed for you as a book under your own name,” he told Dolores in 1927. He sent some to New York publishers, but nothing came of the attempt.
By 1947, Dolores had prepared a large set of O’odham stories and translations to submit as a scholarly monograph. He was concerned to include all his stories and “not let the little ones get left behind.” He sent the manuscript to the series editor, Charles Voegelin of Indiana University, and continued to work on issues related to spelling. It was not until the month of Dolores’s death in 1948 that Voegelin finally decided not to publish the volume; apparently it was not academically rigorous enough for him. Dolores had returned to Arizona and never found out.
Dolores also did not live to see the publication of an O’odham grammar based on his work. This was written by the linguist J. Alden Mason and published under Mason’s name. While acknowledged in the introduction, Dolores was not named as a co-author even though the book was almost entirely based on Dolores’s own collection of stories, shared with Mason in 1919. It was Dolores, too, who introduced Mason to O’odham people during the linguist’s only Arizona fieldwork, a trip of “a few weeks … to get some impression of the phonetics.” It was common at the time for the intellectual labor of Indigenous collaborators to be deprecated as service or mere data production.
Mason never learned to speak or understand O’odham; he analyzed it through Dolores’s writing alone, as one might study Latin. Dolores had little respect for the man who was writing what they both assumed would be a major reference. “How does anybody know how to write a word unless he knows how that word is pronounced?” he asked in 1919. Kroeber promised “to try to see to it that you get a crack at everything he does before publication.”
Dolores also disagreed with Mason’s linguistic choices. The 1911 dream that showed Dolores “the correct way of writing” O’odham expressed a sense that its sentences had many small words. These include grammatical particles and pronouns that Mason chose to treat as parts of complex words. Partial English parallels are I’ll and wouldn’t’ve. Mason might have called each a single word; Dolores might have said they are two (I + ’ll) or three (would + n’t + ’ve). “Dr. Mason takes a whole phrase and calls it a word,” Dolores complained in 1920, “because he can’t understand why any part of an unpronounceable collection of syllables should have any special meaning.”
Most of all, Dolores was upset by Mason’s long delay in finishing the grammar. It was not a high priority to Mason amid other professional obligations, but to Dolores it was absolutely essential to see it completed. His letters to Kroeber reiterate his impatience as he waited for the indirect fruit of his own intellectual labor. Whatever Mason has done, he wrote in 1921, “I am sure is good enough to all who don’t know the [O’odham] language … I wish him good luck but more speed, so I can see the work finished before I depart to some other sphere.”
A year later, he echoed this sentiment with characteristic irony: “My health is good, but my teeth are getting bad, and I suppose when I can’t eat, I can’t live. I must be nearing the time when I shall have to take a trip to some other planet, so hurry up Dr Mason, I want to see his work before I go.” Tragically, it was not until 1950, two years after Dolores died, that the grammar based on his work saw the light of day. He never held it in his hands.
The whimsy in Dolores’s language dream and imagined interplanetary voyage was an enduring feature of his writing. In a May 1911 letter from Sacramento, he speculated about a Berkeley linguist formulating grammatical “rules” for O’odham:
Whoever makes the rules for the [O’odham] language, he or she must take into consideration the great difference in the climate of southern Ariz. and Berkeley. You see, I was thinking that many things which grow in Berkeley could not grow in southern Ariz. The climate I think could make anything grow in Berkeley, I believe, I grew some the time I was there. The hot weather has taken me back to about 150 lbs now. For this reason I am compelled to think very seriously, whether the rules now growing on the college grounds (there among the beautiful grass, trees, and flowers, and the nice sea breeze blowing over them every day) could not be too tender, and when exposed to that hot and dry climate of Ariz., get sun burned, change its color, [d]ry up, lose its flexibility, it[s] elasticity and break.
Dolores’s fanciful comments about environment and grammar anticipated his disapproval of Mason’s knowledge of O’odham from writing alone, as well as his collaoration with O’Neale on the ecological context of O’odham color terms. To understand the language, it would be best to learn to speak it in the place it truly lived.
Later that year, Ishi walked into Oroville, California. Publicity surrounded a man who was luridly called a “wild Indian.” Kroeber and his colleague T. T. Waterman both said the US should grant him land in his ancestral territory; newspapers predicted a treaty. Dolores saw this and said he should hide in the mountains so white people could “find” him too. Then, he wrote, “tell [President] Taft or somebody, that they have to make a treaty with me. I think that will be the only way I can get some good place to stay the rest of my life.”Whimsy could not mask the need so many Indigenous people had for their land back.
Wherever he found himself, Dolores was linguistically aware. In 1914, he and his brother were working in Los Angeles together with two young O’odham men. “We have a tent by ourselves,” he told Kroeber, “and in the evenings we tell to one another the funny things our people used to do, and what they used to say.” One of the young men spoke the Akimel O’odham dialect, called “Pima” at the time. “When the Pima boy speaks,” Dolores wrote, “I nearly always laugh at him; not because he always tells a funny story, but I laugh at the way he expresses himself. I have not heard the Pima language for a long time, and it sounds funny to me.” The pleasure that Dolores’s language gave him is a recurring theme in his writing.
Dolores returned to his own land with university support during his research fellowship year, 1918-19, recording the speech (and songs) of O’odham elders. Even then, his correspondence highlights the clash between his employers’ assumptions and Indigenous realities. To reimburse a researcher for expenses incurred, university procedures (then and now) require receipts. The acting museum head asked, “Will it not be possible for you to obtain the receipt for the $3.00 you paid for the two stories, and for the $1.50 for the saddle?” In a letter from November 1918, Dolores explained how inappropriate this would be:
The people who came through San Xavier are some relations to me, and they let me have the saddle horse to Tucson. They charged me nothing, but I gave them the $1.50. I thought that this was right; I might need their help again out in the desert. … I did not ask anybody to sign a voucher, because by that act the thing freely given becomes a different thing altogether. The $1.50 which I gave is not the value of the service to me. It only shows to my friends that I am as willing to give any help that I can. I might go on and make a longer explanation which I think will not do me any good; so charge the $1.50 to me.
People who insist on signatures may be “looked upon now,” he added, “as we look upon a German spy.” More generally, a Euro-American assumption (then and, all too often, now) was that research in Native communities is transactional — money for knowledge. Dolores knew better. Indigenous community-based research is relational, and succeeds only in the context of healthy, mutually supportive relationships.
Writing to Kroeber in 1920, Dolores spun out a fantasy of O’odham language collaboration under the stars:
Some day when we are all well, I’ll build a house and then I’ll send you that invitation. I am in no hurry about building that house, and if you want to come out next summer I’ll find somebody to board us, and we’ll sleep in the open, look at the stars, and talk [O’odham] until your tongue gets tired flying up and down trying to make that t [sound] … In day times, when you are not working on the [O’odham] language, it will be a good exercise to go out and help me chop trees, dig stumps, or if it rains we’ll plant corn, beans and do all kinds of stunts you never done before. While doing the above named exercises, we will at the same time puzzle out the meanings of [O’odham] phrases.
The first sentence alludes to long-term health problems. These included tooth pain; and Dolores’s 1925 hospitalization was mentioned above. In 1940, a workplace fall damaged a shoulder and caused permanent loss of vision in one eye. Worse still, in November 1947, the elderly Dolores was beaten up, robbed, and left unconscious outside his Oakland apartment. Doctors suspected traumatic brain injury, though Dolores “seemed cheerful.” From this assault he never fully recovered.
After Kroeber married Theodora Kracaw Brown in 1926, Dolores grew close to their whole family. He had a weekly dinner invitation at their Berkeley home and spent his vacation every year with them at their summer house. Their daughter, the writer Ursula K. Le Guin, recalled that “Juan — a killer croquet player — always got there in time for his birthday” at the end of June.Dolores gave Christmas presents to the children, like a bow and arrows to four-year-old Karl in 1930. “I hope he’ll not be trying to shoot his play mates,” Dolores wrote. “The arrows have no points but I imagine Carl will not be hunting mountain lions and the arrows will be good enough to play with.”
Le Guin also remembered Dolores’s first vacation with her family, in 1931, “the summer I learned to walk.” She would “stagger” over to him and ask him to walk with her:
And whatever he was doing, writing or reading or talking or working, Juan would excuse himself and gravely accompany me across the yard and up the driveway on a great journey of a hundred yards or so, I holding on to him by one finger. . . . I know which finger it was, the first of his left hand, a strong, thick, dark finger that entirely and warmly filled my hand.
Those who knew Dolores well were aware of how important his relationship with Kroeber was. At the end of Dolores’s short marriage to Silva Beyer, who lived with him in Chicago in 1935-37, she told Kroeber that “you . . . are far more significant to him than I had become.” And Dolores’s niece Rosaria Vavages wrote Kroeber in April 1947 that her uncle “has told me a lot about you and your family [and] how he feels that your family is his family too.”
Juan Dolores died on July 19, 1948, in Vamori, Arizona in the Tohono O’odham Nation. He had left Berkeley for the last time when he retired at the end of June. He reached Tucson “a very sick man,” his niece said. He hardly ate, but every day he “dragged himself to the park,” which was cooler than the house and his room (“just like an oven”).  He would not let her call a doctor, insisting instead that he be taken to Vamori, where he could be buried near his brother and sister. Dolores had lived almost all his life away from O’odham land, but wanted to be home with his family. He asked his niece to tell his Berkeley colleagues that she should receive his pension, and to send Kroeber all the manuscripts he had brought with him in retirement.
Dolores’s O’odham manuscripts record language, stories, and songs. He added many details about language and the contexts and meaning of what he recorded. One 60-page story is followed by six pages of notes like this: “The race track is that open space, under the mountain, on the west side. There are no trees on this land, and [it] is level. The distance is about 50 mi[les] or more.” A song transcript comments that a word meaning “Come along” is used “only in baby language.” In the song, the earth doctor is “speaking to the earth as if it is his child, holding it by the hand [as] he pull[s] it along, saying Come along.” Dolores’s writing includes histories and speeches, biography and geography. As a whole, it comprises an O’odham cultural atlas from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Dolores’s manuscripts have been scattered over the decades and are now housed in archives in Berkeley, Tucson, and Philadelphia. His memoir has appeared under his name; many of his stories are in a volume assembled by others who acknowledged his contributions but did not credit him as an author. While some of his writing has been brought home, much awaits the reclamation he surely desired. Almost five decades passed from his student essays to his last work, but Juan Dolores, the “gentle, intellectual man, living in exile and poverty” that Le Guin saw in memory, never lost sight of how land and language would strengthen his people.
 “Enough Water to Last All Summer,” Sacramento Bee, March 2, 1911: 3.
 Dolores to Alfred Kroeber, March 16, 1911, Records of the Department of Anthropology, CU-23, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, Box 11.
 Like others at the time, Dolores always called his language “Papago” in English. This term is now often seen as a slur, so I have replaced it throughout with “O’odham.”
 For the quotation see Dean Saxton and Lucille Saxton, O’othham Hoho’ok A’agitha: Legends and Lore of the Papago and Pima Indians (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973), iii.
 Before the Hampton Institute, Dolores spent four years at the Teller Institute in Grand Junction, Colorado: Dolores to Kroeber, December 22, 1925, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49. For brief accounts of Dolores’s life, see A. L. Kroeber, “Juan Dolores, 1880-1948,” American Anthropologist 51 (1949): 96-97, and Juan Dolores and Madeleine Mathiot, “The Reminiscences of Juan Dolores, an Early O’odham linguist,” Anthropological Linguistics 33 (1991): 233-35.
 J. M. Lolorias, “The Last Great War,” The Indian Advance 2/8 (April 1, 1901): 4; John Miguel Lolorias, “As an Indian Sees It,” The Southern Workman 31/9 (1902) 476-80. “Lolorias” was an Anglicization of the O’odham pronunciation of “Dolores.”
 John Lolorias, “Address,” Proceedings of the Nineteenth Annual Meeting of the Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian, 1901, ed. Isabel C. Barrows (New York: Lake Mohonk Conference, 1902), 76-77.
 Dolores and Mathiot, “The Reminiscences of Juan Dolores” (n. 5 above): 294, 309, 312-13.
 Letter to Edward Sapir, November 4, 1917, in Victor Golla, ed., The Sapir-Kroeber Correspondence: Letters Between Edward Sapir and A. L. Kroeber, 1905 – 1925 (Berkeley: Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, University of California, Berkeley), 260.
 Documents relating to Dolores’s university employment are in Records (n. 2 above), Box 16.
 “Indian to Lecture Here,” San Francisco Examiner, November 21, 1911: 2.
 Dolores to Kroeber, December 22, 1925, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49.
 Dolores to Kroeber, February 25, 1926, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49.
 “Juan, Indian, Defies Alphabet,” San Francisco Examiner, February 3, 1911: 3.
 “Indian Guards U.C. Relics of Fathers,” The Ripon Record, May 6, 1927: 5.
 “U.C. Co-ed and Indian Marry,” Oakland Tribune, November 20, 1935: 1; “Papago Indian and White Woman Marry,” Arizona Daily Star, November 21, 1935: 1.
 “Indian’s Bride to Teach at Chicago,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 26, 1935, p. 10; “Indian’s Bride to Help Him Write Book,” Oakland Tribune, November 21, 1935: 21.
 Juan Dolores, “Papago Verb Stems,” University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 10 (1913): 241-63; Juan Dolores, “Papago Nominal Stems,” University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 20 (1923): 19-31; Juan Dolores, “Papago Nicknames,” in Essays in Anthropology in Honor of A. L. Kroeber in Celebration of his Sixtieth Birthday, June 11, 1936, ed. Robert H. Lowie (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1936), 45-47.
 Lila M. O’Neale and Juan Dolores, “Notes on Papago Color Designations,” American Anthropologist 45 (1943): 394.
 Kroeber to Dolores, April 16, 1927, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49.
 Dolores to Kroeber, July 26, 1947, A. L. Kroeber Papers, BANC MSS C-B 925, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, Box 13:15.
 Voegelin to Kroeber, July 9, 1948, Ethnological Documents of the Department and Museum of Anthropology, BANC FILM 2216, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, 134.8.1.
 J. Alden Mason, The Language of the Papago of Arizona (Philadelphia: University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1950), 3.
 Dolores to Kroeber, December 26, 1919, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49.
 Kroeber to Dolores, March 9, 1920, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49.
 Dolores to Kroeber, August 23, 1921, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49.
 Dolores to Kroeber, October 31, 1922, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49.
 Dolores to Kroeber, May 10, 1911, Records (n. 2 above), Box 11.
 On Ishi, see chapter 7 of Garrett, Unnaming of Kroeber Hall (first note above), and references cited there.
 “First Train Ride for Nogi Indian,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 5, 1911: 3; “President and Senate to Make Treaty with Aborigine,” Oroville Daily Register, September 4, 1911: 1.
 Dolores to Kroeber, September 10, 1911, Records (n. 2 above), Box 11.
 Dolores to Kroeber, January 4, 1914, Records (n. 2 above), Box 16.
 E. W. Gifford to Dolores, October 30, 1918, Records (n. 2 above), Box 16.
 Dolores to Gifford, November 3, 1918, Records (n. 2 above), Box 16.
 Dolores to Kroeber, August 2, 1920, Records (n. 2 above), Box 16.
 Theodore Kroeber to Alfred Kroeber, November 15, 1947, Theodora Kroeber Quinn Papers, AA-15, Arizona State Museum Library, University of Arizona.
 This and subsequent quotations from Ursula K. Le Guin are to The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (Boston: Shambala, 2004), 14-17.
 Dolores to Kroeber, December 22, 1930, Records (n. 2 above), Box 49.
 Beyer to Kroeber, June 15, 1937, Kroeber Papers (n. 21 above), Box 13:16.
 Vavages to Kroeber, April 16, 1947, Kroeber Quinn Papers (n. 36 above).
 Vavages to Kroeber, July 22, 1948, Kroeber Quinn Papers (n. 36 above).
 Ethnological Documents (n. 22 above), 134.1.15, p. 62.
 Ethnological Documents (n. 22 above), 134.4E.
 In Berkeley, they are in the Ethnological Documents (n. 22 above); in Tucson, they are in the Kroeber Quinn Papers (n. 36 above); in Philadelphia, they are in the John Alden Mason Papers, Mss.B.M384, American Philosophical Society Library.
 Dolores and Mathiot, “The Reminiscences of Juan Dolores” (n. 5 above); Saxton and Saxton, O’othham Hoho’ok A’agitha (n. 4 above).
Andrew Garrett is a professor of linguistics and the Nadine M. Tang and Bruce L. Smith Professor of Cross-Cultural Social Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also director of the California Language Archive.
The Aquarium of the Pacific was founded in the 1990s during a period of questions about what to do with Long Beach’s harbor area. Much of the coast in San Pedro Bay is devoted to industrial use, and the entire shoreline is manipulated. On the far side of the port complex, near the border with Orange County, is a recreational beach. But the waterfront area right between the beach and the port, nearest to downtown Long Beach, had been subject to “ups, downs, and an identity crisis,” in the words of a New York Times reporter writing in 2000.35 In the very early twentieth century, the waterfront hosted the Pike, a Coney-Island-esque bathing area, boardwalk, and amusement park featuring rides and games, concessions, an elaborate hand-carved carousel, and, in a later era, tattoo shops (the buildup to World War II brought the navy to the harbor, and sailors brought demand for tattoos).36
In 1979, the Pike was formally shuttered, though it was well off its heyday before then. The area retained some tourist attractions, notably the docked RMS Queen Mary ocean liner, Howard Hughes’s massive wooden plane, the Spruce Goose (encased in a custom-built geodesic dome), and an annual Grand Prix motor race, begun in 1975.37 But the area was underutilized by urban development standards, and the city considered how to update it. The Disney Corporation managed both the Spruce Goose and the Queen Mary starting in 1988.38 Around then, Disney expressed interest in siting a massive ocean-related theme park in the Long Beach harbor, to be called DisneySea; the entire complex was to include a research center and resort, and to be collectively called Port Disney.39 Fantastical artistic renderings of the complex resembled the contemporary Biosphere 2 artificial environment, with a glistening science-fiction sheen evocative of the space age. But these plans were short-lived; the park was never built.40 The harbor nonetheless contained glimpses of futuristic fancy: a 1967 artist’s rendering of an oil island at night rivals the Disney imaginary; and the Queen Mary and dome, although divested by Disney in the 1990s, still remain today.
Fantastical harbor flourishes aside, the 1990s hit Long Beach hard economically. The navy consolidated its Southern California presence in San Diego, closing a naval station and hospital as well as shuttering a shipyard in the Long Beach harbor. In turn, aviation manufacturing plants reliant on military contracts also closed. It was in this context that the city looked to cultivate tourist attractions, with or without Disney’s involvement. (Simultaneously, the region pursued port development as an economic strategy.) It secured municipal financing to build an aquarium—albeit a more modest, far less spectacular one than the facility Disney had planned—and develop the harbor with a shopping center and refurbished convention center.41 The aquarium was paid for through government funding and philanthropic contributions, although indirectly the municipal funds were tied to the city’s oil revenues.42 The city owns the aquarium, which is managed and operated by a nonprofit organization.43
Public institutions for the display of animals emerged in larger Euro-American cities in the nineteenth century, often with funding from scientific societies.44 Projects of taxonomy and empire, displaying unfamiliar animals from other locales, zoos and aquariums both satisfied and stoked public interest in animal life. Some early American zoos also bore the influence of the urban parks movement, emphasizing conservation of native species. Zoos often resembled amusement parks, offering children rides on ponies and Galápagos tortoises, transporting visitors around the parks on buses and trains, and dramatically exhibiting trained seals and chimpanzees to enthralled audiences, according to historian Pamela Henson. Not unlike circus sideshows, they emphasized the novelty and exoticism of their offerings, and they competed with other zoos, even to the point of keeping animal care regimens secret.45 By the middle of the twentieth century, conservation emerged as a more consistent concern, and zoos were coming under fire for animal exploitation and poor conditions.46 By the late twentieth century, zoos had brought conservation fully into their remit, including cooperating to serve as genetic reservoirs for endangered species, sharing information and resources, and addressing conservation in exhibits and mission statements.47
Both the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Aquarium of the Pacific’s work with otters is in line with these trends. Zoos and aquariums conduct conservation work both in situ and ex situ, in field sites.48 But aquariums, unlike zoos, often work closely with local wildlife officials too.49 The aquariums’ otter work involves housing a native (sub)species whose numbers have dwindled in the wild with the goals of educating the public and expanding the population, within the parameters of their own institutional mandates and constraints.50
As noted above, MBA has had ambitious otter conservation programs central to its mission since its inception. The Aquarium of the Pacific has also hosted otters since its earliest days. When it was founded in 1998, otters were not local to the immediate Southern California coastal area near Long Beach, due to the otter-free zone, though of course they were ecologically native to the area. The Aquarium of the Pacific immediately worked closely with MBA to host otters, offering housing and care for otters that could not live in the wild; this allowed the two institutions working together to care for more animals than MBA could alone. The Aquarium of the Pacific declared its first full summer in operation, 1999, to be “Sea Otter Summer,” with a full public relations blitz. Its charismatic otters were Monterey Bay transplants, young animals who were not suitable candidates for release into the wild and instead resided in the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Northern Pacific habitat (here Northern Pacific means essentially California and north, that is, the cooler water zone north of the warm-cold mixing in the ecotone that is the Southern California Bight). At least two of the otters were orphaned during El Niño storms in 1997 (rough water and wind can cause pups to get separated from mothers, and storms are a common cause of pup stranding).51 Given the timing, these young animals would not have been candidates for surrogacy, which did not begin until 2001.
One of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s otters, a young female aptly named Summer, featured in a heartbreaking and frankly bizarre Los Angeles Times article that accompanied the exhibition:
A little girl named Summer arrived in Long Beach last month with what sounds like a Hollywood crisis: a lousy fur coat, a weight problem and a dependency issue. Summer, an 11-month-old sea otter at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, also would be distressed to know she’s missing her spot in the limelight. This Saturday the aquarium will launch Sea Otter Summer, but the budding diva will be in rehab.52
Distressing anthropomorphism and peculiar pathologizing aside, the article paints a vivid picture of the struggles stranded otters and their human caregivers can face. When rescued by MBA, Summer’s caregivers hoped to rehabilitate her for release into the wild, but over time, she failed to thrive: her coat did not come in with sufficient thickness to keep her afloat and warm, which was evident when human handlers took her on daily ocean swims as part of rehabilitation efforts. (Otters’ coats are dense, and pups’ fur actually helps them float because of how it traps air, which saves their bodies energy. The drive to commodify this lustrous fur is what led otters to be hunted to near extinction.53) Summer did not gain sufficient weight, probably because of being chilled. And her “addiction” to suckling towels was an unfortunate effect of her separation from her mother when she was only one week old.54
Aquarium curators laid out a comprehensive plan of care for Summer. Her towel suckling appeared to be a core cause of her failure to thrive. Without otters to care for pups, human handlers gave otter pups towels to suckle, cuddle, and groom themselves with, “a replacement for their moms.” Handlers suspected the enthusiasm with which Summer took to snuggling and suckling towels was actually damaging her fur; according to laboratory analysis of her pelt, the fibers were twisted and damaged. So in addition to continuing to trying to get her weight up through attentive feeding, caregivers weaned the pup off towels: she went from one per hour to two per day, with the goal of being able to comfortably give them up entirely. Her handler said: “The rewards of the job are similar to those of parenting[.] I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the otters hit certain milestones. I also think it’s a responsible act. Summer couldn’t survive in the ocean, but she’s healthy. Why not give her a good life, while educating the public and us about how otters live so we can use the knowledge to help the environment?”55
Summer lived another eleven years at the Aquarium of the Pacific, though she never fully recovered from the health issues she experienced as a pup. Aquarium staff tried to diagnose and cure Summer, unsuccessfully; veterinary dermapathologists suspected her fur and thermoregulation issues perhaps ultimately derived from an immune-mediated condition, similar to an autoimmune disease in humans.56 The causes of autoimmune disease are complex, but exposures to toxins are strong possibilities; effects of chemical violence are not necessarily immediate, even leading to epigenetic harms.57 In spite of Summer’s health problems, aquarium officials stated that she had led a “relatively healthy and apparently happy” life with her exhibit-mates at the Aquarium of the Pacific, until reaching a more advanced age when her health declined again, leading to compromised organ function. They determined that euthanasia was the most humane course, but Summer died on her own hours before the planned procedure, in September 2010.58 Twelve years is a somewhat shorter lifespan than might be expected for a female otter in captivity, though not dramatically so. Her loss was mourned by aquarium staff and caregivers, many of whom had known her since her arrival.
Around the time of Summer’s death in 2010, the Aquarium of the Pacific opened a new animal care facility. The 14,000-square-foot facility was unusual in one main regard: it included a large room for veterinary exams open to the public (through a pane of glass). On most days, aquarium staff perform veterinary exams and medical procedures on aquarium animals, in public view, with either a staff interpreter out in front of the window or one inside who explains what staff are doing over a public address system for viewers outside. Simulations of veterinary procedures are on display even when the aquarium is closed.
One day in September 2019, two otter dental procedures were listed on a whiteboard: a root canal for Betty, age seven, and a tooth extraction for Maggie, age seventeen.59 A curator said that there is treatment activity on public view at least a couple of days per week, and that the facility conducts nearly every procedure in public view (exceptions might be if no interpretive staff were available to narrate, or in case of a high-stakes procedure where the patient might be in danger of “crashing,” in which case blinds would be drawn). An adult sea otter would get at least one exam per year, including blood draws, x-rays, and an ultrasound, all during regular business hours in full public view.60 The aquarium holds around 11,000 animals (fish, reptiles, mammals, birds), so there is a lot of opportunity for routine exams that can double as public programming.61 While the Aquarium of the Pacific’s public viewing facility was novel at the time it was introduced, more and more facilities like it are being built; it is a trend that promotes public understanding of and transparency about the institution’s activities.62 (Though the curator did not spell this out, it also helps communicate to the public the expense associated with so much care for so many animals.) At the same time, the procedures with the aquarium’s actual living animals, and especially the use of plush children’s toys to stand in for wildlife, arguably domesticate these creatures, blurring boundaries. These spectacles also normalize “nature” in human care, or even on life support. Though managers act in pursuit of “autonomy” for wild animals, this state is “deferred and impossible to achieve,” requiring dependence (especially in the case of highly managed creatures at the edge of extinction).63 This has potential implications for how the aquarium’s audience relates to these animals in the aquarium as well as outside of it.
As of 2020, the Aquarium of the Pacific could house up to six adult otters comfortably, but it was expanding its capacity in order to implement a surrogacy program. The agreement the Aquarium of the Pacific formalized with MBA in early 2020 solidified a commitment to create the conditions to be able to add as many as five adult females who could nurture and socialize pups. As many as ten to fifteen stranded southern sea otter pups are discovered annually in California, so this would add significant capacity for otter care. Like Summer, all stranded pups will first go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for around eight weeks, and then some will move to Long Beach for longer-term rearing (six to seven months), learning to groom and feed and act like “regular” sea otters.64 If a pup does well with its surrogate mother in the Aquarium of the Pacific, it will return to MBA for another month or two to socialize with peers, and then, assuming it is deemed fit, it will be released into the wild. Released young adults will be radiotagged with VHF transmitters and trackable for up to three years; scientists will no longer be able to track the otters once the transmitters’ batteries die, though the tracking devices will remain in the animals for the rest of their lives.
Sea otters come ashore rarely and can perform all essential life functions at sea, including sleeping and giving birth. Charismatic representations of them often feature a mother and pup afloat in a kelp bed.65 The otters of the Aquarium of the Pacific, as well as many other creatures, live in marine water that approximates their oceanic habitats. The aquarium’s water supply therefore is a life-sustaining consideration of major consequence for the institution and its residents. It is sourced from the harbor just outside the aquarium’s door, processed by a company that also supplies water to other aquariums and marine science facilities throughout the western United States and for which the Aquarium of the Pacific is a major customer.
Founded in 1988, Catalina Water Company commodifies a naturally occurring substance, ocean water.66 In claiming water as a resource, processing it, and selling it, the company provides an environment to sustain ocean life in circumstances where it would not be found otherwise: in conditions of captivity and often in geographic locales far from the species’ native environments. Tropical fish in home or institutional aquariums, otters in conservation programs, jellyfish in veterinary care, and mollusks in neuroscience research settings may all find themselves swimming in this water (or, in the case of mollusks, anchored in it). Commodification of ocean water is driven by the commercial trade of tropical fish: “The aquarium hobby could never have become what it is today without the business interests that were, and still are, involved.”67 Recent estimates are that 25–30 million animals from more than 2,000 species are traded annually, including fish and corals; animals are imported from the Philippines, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Australia, Fiji, the Maldives, and Palau, especially richly biodiverse reef ecologies; and domestic fish outnumber pet cats and dogs in both the United States and United Kingdom.68 Most collectible animals are taken from the wild, and many marine species’ needs for breeding in captivity are poorly understood.69 Of course, this practice of removing animals from oceans for global hobbyist trade has ecological implications in their sites of origin. These accumulating environmental injuries are not the main focus here but bear notice as a significant effect of the commodification of marine life and seawater.70
Unsurprisingly, supplying conditions for marine life, let alone healthy marine life, is challenging. The Aquarium of the Pacific’s water comes from the Pacific Ocean via Catalina Water Company, but another option for coastal aquariums is building a water intake system with pipes going out into the sea to take in and discharge water. (A curator at the Aquarium of the Pacific speculated that this would be hard to gain approval for in California’s present-day regulatory environment.71) Facilities that are not coastally located are more likely to manufacture their water, mixing salt and fresh water. Catalina Water Company touts its product by stating, “All synthetic salt mixtures have one thing in common. They are attempting to duplicate real saltwater. Catalina Water Company provides real ocean salt- water, not a synthetic substitute. Synthetic Saltwater, while being basically sound, simply can not provide all the subtle chemical benefits of true saltwater.” The volume of water that the company sells for simulated ocean environments is at least ten million gallons per year.72 The Aquarium of the Pacific is a major client and takes several deliveries per week; its biggest tank, as of 2012, was a 56,000-gallon quarantine tank, part of the Molina Care Center, a holding tank for large animals that need to be kept separately.73 Deliveries of fresh ocean water at the scale needed by aquariums are delivered via truck in food-grade stainless steel tankers. Catalina Water Company also sells packaged seawater for home aquarium use through the PetCo pet store chain.74
The quarantine tank leads toward a further consideration of the water itself. To become commodified, seawater must be processed. Catalina Water Company notes on its website that it “starts with natural ocean sea- water which is filtered, (fiber, sand, and charcoal) ozonated, and protein skimmed.”75 Before using the water for its marine life, the Aquarium of the Pacific also runs its own tests to make sure it is safe for the animals, and filters it again.76 The 1999 Los Angeles Times article about Summer the pup also offers details about how seriously the Aquarium of the Pacific takes its marine environment: “Before he climbs the metal ladder to the access door of Summer’s tank, [Summer’s handler] steps in two bins of liquid, one containing water and one a disinfectant. He’ll step in them again when he leaves. ‘We’re fussy about quarantine here,’ he explains. ‘I don’t want to take any germs into her habitat or out to the rest of the aquarium.’”77 Of course, extra precautions are indeed necessary for public health in congregate settings (as the COVID-19 pandemic recently showed when the virus cut a tragic, lethal, and preventable path through prisons and elder care facilities).
But this attention to hygiene, water filtration, and monitoring in the aquarium setting exposes an irony. Otters and other life-forms under custodial care of the aquarium are provided cleaner and safer water than their counterparts in the wild. As noted at the outset of this chapter, worries of otter annihilation in the wake of an oil discharge prompted conservation efforts in the 1980s, leading to, among other developments, the otter relocation to San Nicolas Island. The rationale was not only to prompt the settlement of a new territory but to have a population reservoir in a more protected locale, less vulnerable to spills than the near-coastal area the otters inhabited. And spilled oil is not the only source of chemical harm for otters: industrial agricultural fertilizers and other contaminants wash into the ocean from land, bringing toxins that can sicken and even kill marine otters.78 Toxins should thus not be understood as mere “wayward molecules”: they are substances whose patterned presences in land, water, and bodies are indicative of particular political and economic relations.79
35) Sterngold, “Long Beach.” His statement is about Long Beach generally but it fits the waterfront area well.
36) As of 2020, parts of the carousel and vestigial Pike games are on display at Looff ’ Lite- A- Line on Long Beach Boulevard.
37) The Queen Mary docked permanently in Long Beach in 1967. Th e Spruce Goose was housed there only from 1980– 92, but its dome remains and is currently used as Carnival Cruise Lines’ dockside cruise terminal.
38) Kopetman, “Spruce Goose to Be Moved.”
39) Addison, “Long Beach Lost.”
40) Various factors were responsible. Disney requested things the City of Long Beach was unable to deliver single- handedly, like highway modifi cations. Addison, “Long Beach Lost,” notes that Long Beach was hard to build in both politically and financially since local, state, and federal approvals were all required; Disney instead reinvested in and expanded its Anaheim (Orange County) operations.
41) Sterngold, “Long Beach.”
42) Johnson, “Long Beach, Calif., Gets a Boost.” Th e “tidelands grant” the state issued the city to develop the harbor stipulated that revenue from oil profi ts drilled from the Wilmington and Long Beach oil fi elds, located in the tidelands, be reinvested in the tidelands area (and overseen by the state).
43) Kingsley, “Aquarium of the Pacific Turns 20 Today.”
44) Young, “Zoos and Aquariums.”
45) Henson, “American Zoos,” 65, 70, 66.
46) Young, “Zoos and Aquariums”; Henson, “American Zoos,” 72.
48) Henson writes, “as ‘natural environments’ become more stressed through development and climate change, the line has become blurred between ex situ, orzoo- and aquarium-based, research and conservation and in situ, or field-based, biological research and conservation practice” (“American Zoos,” 66); see especially Braverman, Wild Life, for more on this troubled boundary.
49) Muka, “Conservation Constellations.”
50) The California or southern sea otter is classified as a subspecies of an otter whose range used to be the entire Pacific coast from Baja California to Alaska. It is now only found from about Point Conception, just north and west of Santa Barbara, to San Francisco; in other words, just north of the Southern California Bight into which San Pedro Bay is nestled.
51) Morris, “Long Beach Aquarium.”
52) Jameson, “She’s One Happy Pup.”
53) Further north in the Pacific Northwest, Russian traders established a sea otter fur trade with China in the mid- eighteenth century (Gibson, Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods). Otter hunting in fact drew Russians eastward fromSiberia. Spanish colonists in California did not initially recognize the value of otter pelts in “their” territories but soon also entered the otter fur trade with China, and these otters were members of the southern or California sea otter subspecies.
In both cases, Indigenous people also participated in these markets as hunters, though they oft en were resistant to hunting on the scale desired by merchants (Ogden, California Sea Otter Trade, 1784–1848, 43). Overhunting of otters is part of what pushed American maritime traders toward beavers in the nineteenth century (Gibson, Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods).
54) Jameson, “She’s One Happy Pup.”
55) Jameson. Th e journalist noted that the handler was himself a father of two, tying his parental duties with the otter to those with his human young.
56) Segura, “Long Beach Aquarium’s Beloved Otter Dies.” In humans, poisons like PCBs and dioxin have been detected in blood, breast milk, and urine (Murphy, “Alterlife,” 495).
57) Murphy invokes a stencil by Métis artist and activist Erin Marie Konsmo depicting lungs filled with transformer towers connecting to underground fracking, accompanied by the statement “Violence from Fracking [and Pipelines] is Violence on Our Bodies” (“Alterlife,” 500– 501). Though the image depicts human lungs, the statement fits animal bodies as well—though chemical violence is not limited to fossil fuels, of course. See also Fiske, “Naked in the Face of Contamination”; Tuana, “Viscous Porosity.”
60) Aquarium of the Pacific curator, interview, December 7, 2020.
61) Aquarium of the Pacific, “Aquarium Animal Care.”
62) Aquarium of the Pacific curator, interview, December 7, 2020.
63) Parreñas, Decolonizing Extinction, 155; van Dooren, Flight Ways.
64) Aquarium of the Pacific curator, interview, December 7, 2020.
65) Mothers will even wrap pups in kelp to hold them in place and keep them afloat while they go off to forage (e.g. Kranking, “Floating through Life”).
66) The company is presumably named for the island that Spanish settlers dubbed Santa Catalina, one of the Channel Islands, just off shore from Los Angeles and Long Beach. It hosts tourism and marine research, and its rock is the source material for many modifications in San Pedro Bay.
67) Brunner, Ocean at Home, 140– 41.
68) Brunner, “Through a Glass Sadly.”
69) Brunner, Ocean at Home, 141. This is probably less a function of breeding being impossible to do and more that there is little profit motive to attempt it.
70) Brunner notes that only one in ten fi sh caught for aquarium trade survives the shipping and trade process and ends up in a hobby tank (“Through a Glass Sadly”). Toxic injury is also relevant here: Brunner adds that poisons are sometimes used in the water to numb or stun fish and make them easier to capture, and excess poison remains in the water after stunned fish are captured. The habitat effects call to mind Nixon’s description of “delayed destruction” (Slow Violence, 2; see also Neimanis, “‘Chemists’ War’”)
71) Aquarium of the Pacific curator, interview, December 7, 2020. The curator added that Monterey Bay Aquarium, built in the 1980s, has such a system.
72) Catalina Water Company, homepage.
73) Aquarium of the Pacific curator, interview, December 7, 2020; Aquarium of the Pacific, “Molina Animal Care Center.”
74) Catalina Water Company, homepage.
75) Catalina Water Company, homepage. Punctuation per original.
76) Aquarium of the Pacific curator, interview, December 7, 2020.
77) Jameson, “She’s One Happy Pup.”
78) Aquarium of the Pacific, “Sea Otter Conservation.” Parasites can also wash out from land.
79) Liboiron, Pollution Is Colonialism, 82; Murphy, “Alterlife.”
Addison, Brian. “Long Beach Lost: The Dramatic Tale of the Disney Theme Park in Downtown.” Long Beach Post, December 4, 2018.
Henson, Pamela M. “American Zoos: A Shift ing Balance between Recreation and Conservation.” In Th e Ark and Beyond: Th e Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation, ed. Ben Minteer, Jane Maienschein, and James P. Collins, 65–76. Chicago, University of Chicago Press: 2018.
Jameson, Marnell. “She’s One Happy Pup: A Young Otter Name [sic] Summer Once Faced Certain Death, but Today Is Safe, Warm and Getting a Good, if Soggy, Education.” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1999.
Kingsley, Barbara. “Aquarium of the Pacific Turns 20 Today, Hopes to Make a Splash When Pacific Visions Opens in 2019.” Daily Breeze, June 15, 2018.
Kopetman, Roxana. “Spruce Goose to Be Moved to Oregon.” Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1992.
Morris, Asia. “Long Beach Aquarium Mourns the Loss of Brook the Sea Otter.” Long Beach Post, January 30, 2019.
Muka, Samantha. “Conservation Constellations: Aquariums in Aquatic Conservation Networks.” In The Ark and Beyond: The Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation, ed. Ben Minteer, Jane Maienschein, and James P. Collins, 90– 103. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.
Sterngold, James. “Long Beach, in Los Angeles’ Shadow, Strives for a Spotlight.” New York Times, July 27, 2000, A14.
Christina Dunbar-Hester is a science and technology studies scholar and associate professor in the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. She is the author of Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism and Hacking Diversity: The Politics of Inclusion in Open Technology Cultures.
Kinship and Cultural Resistance to Environmental Racism in Avocado Heights, California
On December 13, 2022, Quemetco, Inc. (also known as Ecobat), a battery smelter in City of Industry, California, agreed to pay $2.3 million in a civil settlement litigation brought on by the Department of Toxic and Substances Control (DTSC). Along with committing to infrastructural corrective measures and an acknowledgement of violations, Quemetco will distribute $1.5 million to DTSC in civil penalties and $575,000, split between two local environmental justice projects. While this is the largest settlement yet for Quemetco, it has a long history of neglect and contamination in San Gabriel Valley, California, and even globally.
Quemetco, operating at this location since 1959 as Western Lead Producers, recovers lead from automobile batteries and other miscellaneous lead scrap materials. Currently processing over a million pounds of batteries per day (600 tons), it operates seven days per week, 24 hours per day, though the furnaces “may” operate 16-20 hours per day.1 Their chief pollutants are arsenic, lead, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and nitrogen oxides (NOx); arsenic being the highest contributor to the health, degradation, and risk of the community.2
Quemetco traces to previous and infamous environmental disasters such as The Stringfellow Acid Pits.3 This toxic waste dump located in Jurupa Valley, California became the center of national news coverage in the early 1980s, when it was considered one of the most polluted sites in California and one of the origin cases in environmental justice discourse.4 During Stringfellow’s 16 years of operation, 34 million gallons (about 128703940 L) plus of liquid waste was deposited in evaporation ponds and between 1969 and 1980 poor weather and management resulted in several spills and intentional releases of toxic chemicals into local creeks and storm channels. It was found that Quemetco dumped the tenth largest volume of toxic waste at these acid pits. From 1956-72, under the name Western Lead Producers, Quemetco dumped one million gallons of toxic waste.5
For decades, ambient lead measurements in neighborhoods near Quemetco reflect levels far above the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) with the maximum individual cancer risks modeled at 33.4 ppm. Reports by the DTSC in 1992 and 2006, along with an independent CAC (Clean Air Coalition) and USC Department of Environmental Health surveys conducted in 2016 show on average that most residential houses within a two-mile radius harbor around 117 ppm.6 The highest concentration in Avocado Heights was 2,427 ppm.7
Since 1991, Quemetco and state regulatory agencies knew 8 However, no cleanup was conducted as a result. DTSC “excoriated Quemetco in a 2014 memorandum,” writing how “more often than not, Quemetco is not in compliance with the provisions in their General Permit.”9 A serial violator, Quemetco has also been issued with multiple violations over the years, for problems such as illegally storing hazardous waste and delaying rebuilds of eroding (corroding) infrastructure.
Quemetco failed to comply with various conditions including a 2005 general permit.10 Since their 2013 draft report, DTSC has not approved of the plans to monitor gas, liquid, and surface water discharge. Reporter Daniel Ross in an article on Truthout writes, “The Department of Toxic Substances Control has fallen down badly on its job of protecting the public from toxic harm.” In 2014, DTSC representatives wrote, “Quemetco appears to have been consistently discharging elevated levels of lead” into the San Jose Creek, which runs contiguous with the plant. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board issued letters in 2010 and 2015 stating they were “exceeding the benchmark values for lead, zinc, pH and specific conductance.” While soil and air pollution are serious matters, water is another level. The “EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero,” thus any violation concerning water poses an immediate and dire risk for public and environmental health.11
Over the years, while the lead leakage diminished, emissions are regular. Arsenic, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, remain a constant. In fact, 1,3-butadiene appears to be increasing.12 Mitigation means little when it comes to contamination. With the arsenic plume of 2013 and all the other carcinogenic metals leaching into the soil, plants, animals, water, and air over the years, the damage is done. Arsenic and lead, among so many toxic metals, stay in the soil for thousands of years.
Quemetco was also linked to the transportation of waste material to Exide in Vernon, California before its closure. Exide Technologies was one of two west coast battery smelters before it went bankrupt in 2020 due to the resistance efforts of East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice. Quemetco consistently denies affiliation with Exide, but a DTSC 2020 lawsuit reveals an irrefutable working relationship between Quemetco and Exide over at least twenty-seven years.13 Quemetco has a history of negligent and reckless behavior in arranging and transporting caustic material with lack of regard or concern for neighborhood residents. Coincidentally, Quemetco was in favor of Exide’s closure so that it could eliminate any competition.14
Quemetco’s footprint not only affects local communities but has state, national, and global reach. All these batteries, despite Quemetco’s claims, arrive from local as well as international sources.15 Ecobat, their parent company, has extraction operations in South Africa and South America, with distribution centers and smelters in Europe. It is important to remember that the lead is made into ingots to be sold again. Quemetco is not a public service offering responsible recycling options for batteries. It is a multinational extraction-based business designed for profit.
After three years of relative quiet, in 2022, Quemetco emerged with an application to expand their facility by 25 percent (from 600 tons to 750 tons of lead-material per day).16 In a neighboring unincorporated town, Avocado Heights, California, a group called Avocado Heights Vaquer@s (AHV) are fighting back. Avocado Heights, with 80 percent of the population from Mexico—most from Jalisco or Zacatecas—is a unique equestrian district in San Gabriel Valley with a community of parcels between a half-acre to an acre, containing lots large enough to have seven horses each and run small agricultural business. Until recently, Avocado Heights was working class, however, given the scarcity of large parcels within Los Angeles County they are constantly at war with developers hoping to flip properties, in combination with warehouses and manufacturing developments that are zealous to convert zoning ordinances. Yet even more horrifying, due to Avocado Height’s proximity to the City of Industry, environmental degradation, pollution, and contamination has adverse effects on the community as private and public surveys prove a higher frequency of respiratory problems such as asthma and rare cancer.
(Red indicates 90-100 percentile [highest score], orange indicates 80-90 percentile, and yellow indicates 70-80 percentile. Click on a census tract to learn more about the CalEnviroScreen scores. CalEnviroScreen scores are calculated by the scores of Pollution Burden and Population Characteristics. CalEnviroScreen provides a report with detailed description of indicators and methodology and downloadable results available at CalEnviroScreen 4.0 website.)
Founded in January of 2022, AHV became a serious force within the region, not only fostering support and fighting the expansion of Quemetco, but joining regional coalitions to protect communities of color. Following the legacies of activists in the area who shut down the Exide battery recycling plant and the La Puente Landfill, AHV, “works towards the remediation, preservation, and expansion of air, waterway, and wildlife corridors that will serve our community and future generations as a network of vibrant uninterrupted ecosystems we can access and care for as environmental stewards.” They are organizers who believe that natural environmental spaces can coexist and thrive alongside equestrians, hikers, and cyclists, as educational community spaces for recreation. They are also members of the CAC and participate in other regional coalitions who are dedicated to shutting down Quemetco and fighting developers that want to convert agricultural and equestrian zoned parcels into manufacturing warehouses, reclamation facilities, and industries.
One of the founding members of AHV joins Boom California to discuss the connections between cultural sovereignty, environmental racism, and activism. As with many disruptive environmental justice efforts across California, AHV members face serious legal and personal threats, thus the interviewee will remain anonymous.
Can you tell us a bit about Avocado Heights and what makes it unique?
What makes Avocado Heights unique is its rural aspect, and that it has an equestrian culture. It is past East LA, in the San Gabriel Valley, not too far from Los Angeles, in a suburban and industrial area. Even though we’re surrounded by lots of factories, the neighborhood is small and feels tightknit. You’ll walk your dog or go on a stroll and see people on horses, people walking ponies, or training little foals. There are even goats and chickens and roosters here. It’s beautiful, in that sense.
Close ties between neighbors and friends make this the closest thing to a pueblo I’ve experienced. Each day I am reminded why spaces like this are important. These are spaces reminiscent of the rancherias in rural Mexico where a freshly groomed horse and polished leather saddle still carry cachet among locals–where a rag tag group of teens on borrowed horses meander aimlessly stringing along stories to keep entertained.
Strolls in Avocado Heights become visits, usually there’s an invitation to share a beer and catch up. It’s the place where a lazy Sunday quickly transforms into an impromptu outdoor picnic with friends who might be fully engrossed in a volleyball tournament or karaoke duel. The park is our zocalo (the Jardin minus the kiosk). Our equestrian arena with white picket fence attracts throngs of spectators. Kids battle it out shooting hoops while an elotero takes a moment to rest before making another round past the baseball diamond which also doubles as a soccer field.
Young couples walk towards the edge of the park before lounging for hours on the sloped hill. A group of friends enjoy mariscos from the lonchera fresh off a shift at one of the thousands of warehouses in the City of Industry and ruminate on the adventures that await them. Further off in the distance, admirers narrate which horses they like best and make note of which maneuvers impress them most. Nearby, a washed-up gangster lays flat across the grass and he’s coming off a bender. You recognize him a little, he was someone you went to middle school with.
Sometimes you’ll hear folks refer to this place as North Whittier, Bassett, or La Puente. But for most of us, we prefer Avocado Heights after the massive avocado orchards that were first planted in the 1910’s when this tract was being billed to investors from Los Angeles as a lucrative investment. The area was called la Fortuna Farms, hoping this would generate interest and entice buyers. The land was later acquired by Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, a creditor who acquired the land as collateral after the markets crashed in the 1870s which drove previous landowning family patriarch William Workman to commit suicide.
Can you explain further what it means to be an equestrian district in Avocado Heights?
There are two parks in the community. One gets more use because of the skatepark. But the other park, Avocado Heights Park, is also a central hub, where all the vaqueros and vaqueras congregate. And on the weekends, or around special holidays, you’ll hear music. Hundreds of people will gather. You see people selling various products specific to the region. So, I think the equestrian aspect, it’s important for the community and the environment as well.
The park is especially nice during the subtle chill of pre-Santa Ana winds, where you might find a horse steaming from its sweat as the charros lasso large circles above and around them. They intricately weave ritualistic patterns with the riata while a team of escaramuzas inside the round metal pen gallop diagonally towards each other in a circle before executing a full 180 and dispersing in such quick succession that the floating dust still hangs along the wind.
We’re near the Avocado Heights equestrian trail which connects with the San Jose Creek trail. We could connect on horseback all the way to Azusa, down towards the beach, or hit the Puente Hills and ride towards Chino Hills. A lot of vaqueros and vaqueras will go horse-riding throughout the week, but especially on the weekends, they’ll do the trail rides. It’s so important that we’re mindful and conscious of the environment because it directly impacts everyone in the community. At this juncture, we’re interested in expanding public access to wildlife corridors or greenways, improving multi-use trails in our communities, and shaping development projects to offset adverse environmental impacts and to work towards a more resilient ecological system locally.
(Yellow line indicates LA County DPR Trails. Click on the trail to discover information on trail use and access)
You have illustrated how the story of avocado heights is a story of land. Between today and the evolution of Avocado Heights into Anglo-American settler history, rampant development and the encroachment of manufacturing facilities advanced in the 1970s, a period in which Avocado Heights increasingly faced serious threats to its cultural sovereignty and environment. In 1982, Benjamin Chavis coined the term “environmental racism” to signify the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities. Do you think this is an appropriate term to apply to Avocado Heights and if so, would you elaborate on the scale of the issue?
I think that is an appropriate term. This past winter, a developer was in escrow with a private Christian university that goes by the name: Latin American Bible Institute. They were trying to sell to this developer who was going to build storage units or an industrial manufacturing warehouse. We got activated and we came together. We were loud. We’re like, “No! We will not be okay with this!” It’s something that has affected the community and continues to do so.
Ever since we were children, nearby, there was a the La Puente Landfill. Avocado Heights is really close to City of Industry, La Puente, Bassett and North Whittier, which allowed for established coalitions, like Clean Air Coalition, to help put a stop to the landfill which significantly polluted the environment. People, members of that organization, also fought against the Athens Waste Facility: A big trash processing company near Valley Blvd. Because of them, and the City of Industry, there are a lot of big rigs. There is a lot of traffic and congestion in that area. The City of Industry has a plastic factory and companies like Goya, which you can smell, and which populate the neighborhood with their big rigs. Think of all the carbon and air pollution they emit. Then you consider the ambient, heavy metals they produce. These metals leech into our waterways and bed into our soil. This water is for drinking. Plants and animals depend on this water. The metals remain in the soil for thousands of years. All this industry, and the freeways, grip the borders of our unincorporated town.
But our current and greatest antagonist, in my opinion, is Quemetco, which now goes by Ecobat. Quemetco has been around for decades operating as an extraordinarily reckless toxic battery recycling facility. Quemetco’s contaminating our air, soil, our water, releasing harmful chemicals into our environment, such as lead, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, and other heavy metals. But it’s a powerful multinational corperation with millions, if not billions of dollars, so they’re very good at covering their tracks or paying fees. They’ve made it abundantly clear that they don’t really care about our community. Why would they? They’re profiting, they have their business, and they don’t have our best interests at heart. Aside from a few postcards in the mail, they reach out to other commercial zones, like Hope City, to buffer their optics.
They’re not going to do things like comprehensive soil sampling, which is why we must work hard, even though we’re a small collective. I’d say everyone is really dedicated, and we’re working with other people who are like-minded. We work with Clean Air Coalition or Active SGV or other environmental organizations that care about public health and want to fight against environmental racism.
Considering that you participate in several local coalitions, what do you think defines Avocado Heights Vaquer@s, differentiates it from these other groups?
A few things. Number one, in Avocado Heights, there hadn’t been organizing to the degree in which we do it. There are a lot of environmental and social justice groups in the San Gabriel Valley. There are some in La Puente and even Hacienda Heights. I don’t want to generalize, but some of them are very hierarchical or they’re not focused on meeting the needs of their community. There hadn’t been an organization in Avocado Heights, except the Clean Air Coalition. But that still wasn’t entirely representative of Avocado Heights itself, given that their base was in North Whittier. Their aims, while aligned with ours in many ways, differ.
What makes Avocado Heights Vaquer@s different is the focus on family, or kinship, in our neighborhood. That’s what remains so special about our community. We help each other out. You see a neighbor in need, and you come. I was struggling another day with a horse, freaking out because the horse was stuck, and someone nearby came and helped me out. You see that here. In certain other neighborhoods you don’t. There’s a genuine authenticity, and I think that is part of it too, that cultural aspect where people from small little communities in Mexico bring these common traditions and customs to Avocado Heights. It’s a place where people who are from Mexico can come and feel comfortable. They’re like, “Oh, yeah, hey, this is how we do it in my pueblo!”
Our family helps us out. If we are throwing an event, they’ll be there as much as possible, and they will support us. And I think that’s very special. We’re not a nonprofit. We don’t get money. We don’t have all the resources that a lot of other organizations have.
Do you think there’s some part of the vaquero and vaquera culture that allows you to be unique stewards of the land, one that offers a new approach to environmentalism?
Organizing should also be fun as well as rigorous because otherwise people burn out and can get tired of always having to protest. Aside from that, I think nowadays, because of global warming and activism and social media, there’s this consciousness of: “We got to protect our environment. We got to get involved.”I hate to use the word trendy, it’s not a good word to use to describe caring about the environment, but in a way, it is. Certain people have cared about the environment for many, many generations before it’s become a hashtag.
And part of it starts with our family, starts with your ancestors, starts with your traditions. I know when I go to indigenous spaces such as powwows, there’s an acknowledgment of Mother Earth. When it comes to land, our practice is to not take more than what you need. The honorable harvest: if you take something you give back. You use every single part of the animal because nothing should be wasted. In parts of Mexico, where my mom’s from, it’s that same kind of consciousness. It’s not like the way we think of environmentalism now. We are really paying attention to the stories, anecdotes, and wisdom of my mom’s teaching, or my grandmother’s. They were always mindful of the land. It was natural. That’s how they grew up.
Are there certain goals that AHV are attempting to achieve in the near or distant future, or is it more a processual, reactive type of process?
I think it’s both. Part of it is that we absorb ourselves in projects that really call our attention or that we see commonalities. We consider whether it is an issue that a neighboring community resonates with us. We’ve talked to people who’ve done soil sampling before—such as with East Yards and their fight to shutdown Exide—people who already have this wisdom. And we’ve also worked with the Coalition Against Lennar fighting the developer mentioned before, because it’s about public land. They’re taking away land to build condos.
We are a little reactionary, but in the long term we are just making sure that we protect our community, protect our neighborhood. We want to see more green spaces and spaces that are good for our environment, youth, and animals.
Ultimately, and I know this is going to be hard, but we need to shut down Quemetco. It’s sad that it’s still around and it’s so harmful, and if it’s still there, it’s going to continue polluting our community even if they say, “Oh, we’re adding this filter… or over-monitoring… or a little lead is not that bad…” NO! Any quantity of lead is too much. Our health is in serious jeopardy because of it. But there are other factories involved. It’s all connected. I think Quemetco is a big one that we obviously must address, but there are other factories.
Lastly, is this an open group? If not, what are the ways that people (who are interested or believe in this type of cause or form of justice) within the area can either join, participate, or support the organization?
Yeah, so that’s interesting. It’s something that we reflected on in our last meeting. At first, I think we always saw ourselves as an open group. We don’t want to be exclusive. But we had to reevaluate. Of course, it’s still open in the sense that we want to have support our actions and public-facing events. We need this form of support and solidarity. That’s the crucial thing about doing coalition-building. Through social media networking nowadays or supporting other groups, they’ll turn around and support you.
There’s nothing wrong with just being a little bit smaller, too. We don’t need a lot of people. The agency and identity, and even sovereignty, of our group is important to remember and value as well. The people brought in from the outside can jeopardize the core and spirit of the group. If someone is really interested, of course, we’re not going to turn them away. But I think what’s important is just having people who you can rely on and trust because it’s not a small endeavor going against big companies and companies that have lots of well-paid lawyers. There is also a community, real people, and specific culture at stake. It’s kind of scary because we have to be careful as much as we have to fight.
2) Ibid & Lisa Fuhrmann, Quemetco’s Lead Legacy: A Cycle of Injustice and Contamination in Southern California, EarthJustice, January 27, 2021
3) George Ramos, “Report Urges Firms Be Held Liable for Cleaning Stringfellow Acid Pits,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1986
4) Tracy E. Perkins, The Evolution of a Movement: Four Decades of California Environmental Justice Activism, (Oakland, California: UC Press, 2022), 26.
5) United States v. Stringfellow, 661 F. Supp. 1053, 1061, 17 ELR 21134 (C.D. Cal. 1987), 11
6) Jill Johnston, Soil Sampling Data near Quemetco Battery Recycling, City of Industry, CA, USC Department of Preventive Medicine, July 2016
7) Scott M. Lesch, et al, Final Report: Statistical Modeling and Analysis Results for Topsoil Lead Contamination Study (Quemetco Project), University of California Riverside, January 28, 2006 & Nancy L. C. Steele, Off-site Sampling Report in the Vicinity of Quemetco Inc. December 1991 & Jill Johnston, Soil Sampling Data near Quemetco Battery Recycling, City of Industry, CA, USC Department of Preventive Medicine, July 2016
8) Nancy L. C. Steele, Off-site Sampling Report in the Vicinity of Quemetco Inc. December 1991
9) Daniel Ross, “Lax Regulatory Enforcement Leaves Thousands at Risk of Lead Poisoning in California,” Truthout, November 22, 2015
[For full disclosure, previous editors and SEMAP co-directors Romeo Guzmán and Carribean Fragoza as well as graduate editorial assistant Daniel Talamantes have a continuing relationship with AHV and support their efforts as well as attend their events.]
Many Californians who recognize the name “Kettleman City” do so because it is a good place to stop for gas and a snack on the long drive between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, passing through the Central Valley’s agricultural landscape. But some Californians recognize the name of the tiny town (population 1,439) because it played the David to the Goliath of Waste Management, the country’s largest waste company.
Kettleman City, like so many other poor communities of color, was a prime target for a hazardous waste landfill. The town’s demographics are comparable to many other places that host hazardous waste facilities: 100 percent of the community is Latinx; 57.5 percent of residents over age twenty-five have less than a ninth-grade education; and the average per capita income is $15,656 per year. Kettleman City hosts one of three Class 1 landfills in California (all three are located in or near predominantly Latinx communities), and the community’s opinion was not sought when the landfill was sited. Indeed, residents did not even know about the dump until after it had been permitted and built in 1979. But when a hazardous waste incinerator was proposed on the dump site, the residents made their opposition known, loud and clear. The fight in the late 1980s and early 1990s against the incinerator at the Kettleman City landfill was a paradigmatic early case in the environmental justice movement.
This chapter traces the thirty-plus-year history of environmental justice activism in Kettleman City as a case study within the broader evolution of environmental justice activism. This case study exemplifies the broader trends discussed in chapters 2 and 3 and analyzes how these trends played out on the ground. The Kettleman City story is an early environmental justice success, preventing the construction of a new “locally unwanted land use”—here, an incinerator. These successes added up in town after town; only three of the seventy-five or more new or expanded incinerators proposed since the 1980s were ever built. However, Kettleman City’s example also shows how these successes, as important as they are, could not on their own address existing unwanted land uses or the effect of multiple sources of contamination in one location. And these successes left other problems in their wake: the challenge of sustaining broad levels of local activism after the immediate threat ended made it difficult to address the broader structural conditions of capitalism that disproportionately locate pollution in low-income communities and communities of color and that constrain efforts to change the status quo.
The case of Kettleman City shows the unevenness of the environmental justice movement’s transition from “protest” to “politics.” Many in the environmental justice movement have used the limitations of fighting individual, defensive battles site by site as a reason to scale up into state-wide policy advocacy and collaborative work with state agencies. Others have ventured into efforts to build gardens, parks, and other environmental amenities, some of which pursue a DIY model that eschews state involvement. But in Kettleman City, much environmental justice activism remains true to its roots: focused on local sources of polluting health threats and engaged in continued confrontations with industry and state agencies. Of course, Kettleman City activists are also influenced by the broader trends described in chapters 2 and 3: changing racial politics and industrial public relations efforts, pressure to collaborate with state agencies, the opportunities and challenges of increasingly relying on philanthropically funded nonprofit structures to support activism, and the normalization of risk from the nearby hazardous waste landfill. They also face the challenge of pursuing activism within the context of neoliberal policies under capitalism, which mitigate against increasing environmental enforcement budgets and channel environmental activism toward voluntary and market-based (rather than regulatory) measures to contain industry pollution.
In Kettleman City, we can also see the fissures in the movement caused by the disagreement over tactics. The town hosted the first meeting of the newly formed California Environmental Justice Coalition, which was formed as an alternative to the better-funded, exclusive California Environmental Justice Alliance. Finally, in the face of skepticism about the value of participating on government advisory committees and improving the public’s ability to participate fairly in environmental decision-making, Kettleman City’s difficult history accessing environmental decision-making also shows why activists worked toward these goals in the first place.
The Anti-incinerator Campaign
In the late 1970s, Chemical Waste Management, Inc. (a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc.) built a hazardous waste landfill 3.5 miles away from Kettleman City on land formerly used to store waste mud from nearby oil drilling. As a Class 1 landfill, the facility is authorized to take almost any hazardous substance up to, but excluding, radioactive waste. It is the largest hazardous waste landfill west of the Mississippi. In the 1980s, Chemical Waste began the permitting process to add a hazardous waste incinerator to the existing landfill. The incinerator would burn hazardous waste instead of landfilling it. According to the waste management industry, the push toward incinerators in the 1980s was a response to a national crisis of landfills running out of room for new waste. (However, as David Pellow, Kenneth Gould, and others have written, the “crisis” had other origins, including that the public increasingly did not want to live near them, and industry was blocking or shuttering recycling initiatives.) These incinerators would add dangerous toxins to the air, and the proposed incinerator sites were disproportionately in low-income communities and communities of color, such as Kettleman City.
Many residents of Kettleman City did not even know about the existing hazardous waste landfill just outside of town, where it is not easily visible from the road. Residents did not discover its presence until after it was built—some in 1985, when the dump was fined for operating unauthorized waste ponds, and some not until they learned about the incinerator proposal a few years later. Maricela Mares Alatorre, daughter of activists Mary Lou and Ramon Mares, remembers that her family and neighbors had no idea that the dump existed, or that a hazardous waste incinerator was proposed to be added to it, until Greenpeace organizer Bradley Angel knocked on her door while recruiting residents to attend an upcoming permitting hearing. The hearings, however, were not easy to participate in:
When we started attending these meetings, we noticed that they were never in town, they were usually in the middle of the day, 45 miles away, where they weren’t really accessible to people. And if you could get there, they didn’t translate them into Spanish when most of the town speaks Spanish. And we started finding out that there was a pattern to the way these things happen. We started researching the company. We were informed about the Cerrell Report. It was a 1984 document, which was commissioned by the California Waste Management Board where they said how you should choose a town for these kinds of projects. And we found out that they were going around choosing towns that had a large minority population, where people didn’t speak English, large immigrant populations, low education, and Catholic. That was actually in the report: Catholic. And we were—we were shocked because we really had no idea. I had no idea that environmental racism existed until we were made aware of that document. And it’s like you don’t want to have to go to a meeting. You don’t want to have to, you know, spend all your time in these boring hearings, and sometimes you don’t understand what they’re saying. But it makes you mad when we saw the pattern. And we talked to people from other towns, and we started networking, and we saw how they deliberately chose people like us to do these things to. It makes you mad.
Mares Alatorre’s story is a common one in communities fighting incinerators and other waste facilities in the 1980s and 1990s. As people across the country learned that toxic industries were being located in politically vulnerable communities, residents faced off with local government officials and industry representatives (who appeared to march in lockstep), resorting to disruptive political tactics when their pleas to government officials fell on deaf ears. In Kettleman City, residents, concerned about the threat to their health, formed a grassroots group to tackle the problem: El Pueblo para el Aire y Agua Limpio (People for Clean Air and Water). Mary Lou and Ramon Mares, and Esperanza and Joe Maya, among others, took leadership roles. Some of El Pueblo’s members brought in prior experience with farmworker organizing in the United Farm Workers of America to El Pueblo, while for others El Pueblo was their first experience with organizing.
Like many other groups nationwide, El Pueblo pursued local, direct action and community organizing strategies. However, it was unique in having early access to a lawyer, Luke Cole at California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), who used the case as a test for the use of civil rights law to address pollution in communities of color. The organization also had the support of organizers from the large environmental group Greenpeace, which (unlike many other large national and international environmental organizations) embraced direct-action tactics and at the time, at least on the West Coast, invested in local antitoxics and environmental justice organizing. In addition to their work with Greenpeace and CRLA, activists also attracted support from the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Las Madres del Este de Los Angeles, Citizen Action, Rev. Jesse Jackson, a UC Berkeley student group (Nindakin: People of Color for Environmental Justice), and a wide array of others.
One of the most iconic moments in the campaign occurred at a 1988 public hearing about the toxic waste incinerator proposal. By the time this hearing took place, residents had lost faith in both state and industry officials and came prepared to confront them:
So, before this meeting, I’m at my home, and we said, “Well, whenever we don’t like something, we’re going to have to let them know.” All their same lies. So, I made hundreds of copies of this piece of paper with the word “NO” real bold on it. It’s just that, “NO.” I said, when we don’t like something, we’re going to scream “No!” So, we all had those with us.
The circumstances of the hearing underscored how Kettleman City residents were being excluded from the normal process of government decision-making. Like other hearings, this one was not in Kettleman City but in the county seat in Hanford, thirty miles away. Although it was held in the winter, the hearing was not scheduled for one of the comfortable, well-heated spaces available in town such as the high school auditorium. Rather, the hearing was held in the County Fairground building, a building about the size of a football field that was, as one resident told me, “an exhibit barn for arts and crafts, or your animals or whatever. One of those big galvanized buildings made out of sheet metal or something. It’s cold. Cement floor.” The planning commission sat elevated at the front of the room, with portable heaters at their feet and hot coffee on their table. Open space, microphones, and then about fifty rows of seats lay before them, followed by bleachers. Behind the bleachers, there was empty concrete that stretched until the end of the building.
Luke Cole and Sheila Foster describe provisions made for Spanish- speaking residents as follows:
Kettleman City residents showed up at the meeting in force. About 200 people came by bus and carpool from Kettleman City, and, as one of their leaders made clear, “We’re here, we want to testify on this project, and we brought our own translator.” The chair of the Kings County Planning Commission looked down on the crowd and said, “That request has been denied. The translation is taking place in the back of the room and it won’t happen up here.” Residents looked at where the Planning Commissioner was pointing: they looked from the Planning Commission up on their dais, they looked at the open space and the microphones, they looked at all the rows of chairs, and they looked at the bleachers. And then they looked way back behind the bleachers, nearly at the rear of the room, where there was one forlorn man sitting surrounded by a little circle of about twenty-five empty chairs. The Planning Commission chair said again, “Why don’t you go back there? There are monitors back there. We are all in the same room.”
Kettleman City residents had come prepared to press their cause, and this arrangement did not suit them at all. One activist describes what happened at the meeting as follows:
It was supposed to be open all day for people that wanted to go and say whether they’re for [the incinerator], against it, or have questions for the supervisors. And we had a certain time we were supposed to be there. We were bused over there. Some people took their cars, and some people went on their own, but when we got there, they didn’t let us speak ’til about 9:00 or 10:00 that evening. They let other people speak first that should have spoke during the day. They were getting us to be tired so we would just go home, you know, and leave them alone. Then they didn’t have the translators they were supposed to have had. They had some translators. We asked for the translators and then they said, “Well, the translators are going to be in the back of the building. Go to the back.” They told us to go in the back! Go to the back of the room for the translators. And we all went, “No!” You know, “You bring the translators to us when we’re up there speaking!” So we go, “No!” And then we said, “Adelante!” and we all went forward with our “No! No!” “We’re not going to go to the back of the room!” . . . And they were shocked that we did that. Why would they send us to the back of the room? That’s discrimination there in itself. So, they didn’t have translators, and it was just waiting for somebody to do something wrong, to jump on us, to fight with us. You couldn’t even go to the bathroom, ’cause they were waiting for you in there to do something, the Chem Waste employees. It was just really, really bad.
Negative encounters like these, in which state decision-makers and industry representatives blatantly disrespected residents, drew more people into the fight, as this early incinerator opponent describes:
When the people that needed the translation started understanding what they were trying to do to them and how they were being disrespected, that made them more active. So that’s how we got more people to get into the fight for the incinerator.
Another iconic moment of disruption took place later in the campaign, the day before another hearing, when activists blockaded the entryway to the landfill with an old school bus and chained themselves to its axle. An activist who had been part of a successful campaign to oppose the construction of another incinerator in nearby Alpaugh helped out in Kettleman City. Greenpeace stored the bus on her property until it was needed and used her home as a planning area for the demonstration. She describes the opportunity to have supporters from out of town staying with her as a strange but wonderful experience. A Kettleman City resident who also hosted out-of-town supporters had a similar experience:
One time I housed a lot of people from Greenpeace at my house. They were at my house for almost two weeks, and they camped in my backyard. They came to canvas. I didn’t even know what that word meant. But I remember seeing them coming in with money in the evening. I didn’t even know what was going on. We were so green to all this. So I was asked if I could house them and I said, “Yeah.” Well, they all came over to help us and I don’t even know who they were. And I remember that I used to cook for them. They would not eat meat, so I would cook a big pot of pinto beans every day, and they would eat the whole damn pot—[laughter]—of beans and salsa. I always had that, and I don’t know who furnished the pasta, but they always had big bags of pasta and I would cook the pasta. And they stayed at my house for that long. The posters were made in my backyard. The canvas banners were done there. I housed a lot of people throughout the years in my home—strangers, you know? Strangers because I never seen them before, but they came to help. I didn’t even know what the organization Greenpeace was, or who they were, who Bradley [Angel] was, you know? But I learned throughout the years.
During this period, environmental justice activism felt like it was becoming a national mass movement, with Kettleman City as one of many hot spots. In addition to the student activists and others brought by Greenpeace, residents from other affected communities such as San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point, East Los Angeles, and Alpaugh visited Kettleman City to lend their support. One Kettleman City activist remembers those days fondly:
I think all of it was a high point. I was really amazed that people outside Kettleman City actually cared for us, what happened to us. We started networking and all these people came to our aid. Who were they? Why did they care? We couldn’t understand that. Like Bradley [Angel] and his organizations, and Luke Cole with the lawyers. Why did they care? We’re just a poor Hispanic migrant little town, you know? But they knew more of what Chem Waste was doing. We were not the only site in the United States. We found out later that there were other dumpsites, and that they have the same pattern [of locating dumps in politically disadvantaged communities] throughout.
Kettleman City activists returned the favor, giving their support to people elsewhere and strengthening the emerging network of grassroots environmental justice activists. They went to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., in 1991, which helped bring together people facing similar problems across the country. They traveled to Los Angeles and other California locations, as well as New York, Alabama, and the town of Playas de Rosarito, ten miles south of the US-Mexico border. These visits were not just to provide moral support, but to share tactics and information about their common corporate opponents. The meetings laid bare the lies that Chemical Waste was telling on each side. For example, the residents of Playas de Rosarito had been told that the people of Kettleman City were supportive of the incinerator proposal—a lie that Kettleman City residents quickly debunked when they met. The Mexican residents had wanted to come see the landfill in Kettleman City as they considered their options but were told no by Chemical Waste; at the same time, Chemical Waste was telling Kettleman City residents that they could come see the landfill anytime, because the company had nothing to hide. The Kettleman City activists therefore planned a visit to the dump without mentioning to Chemical Waste that they would be accompanied by several busloads of Mexican residents from Playas de Rosarito and local press. The Mexican visitors returned home and successfully blocked the building of the incinerator proposed for their town.
As Kettleman City residents met activists from elsewhere, many developed broader political critiques about waste infrastructure writ large, broadening their opposition beyond the early “not in my back- yard” beliefs. Mary Lou Mares shared the following:
We started going to statewide conferences and meeting other people who were fighting other terrible stuff. There was Stormy Williams, she was fighting in the Mojave Desert. Everybody says, “Why can’t you put this incinerator in the desert or somewhere where people don’t . . . ?” And she would get up and say, “Wait a minute, I live in the desert!” [Laughter] At first, you are so ignorant that it’s easy to say, “Put it in the desert,” but you start meeting people and you start understanding that there is no place to put an incinerator because the air belongs to everybody and it has currents and it goes around and comes around. You just cannot put anything into the air.
Despite the efforts by Kettleman City residents and allies, the Kings County Planning Commission nevertheless voted to approve the incinerator construction. Kettleman City is an unincorporated community, which means the people have no local governance structure of their own but rather are governed from a distance by a county board of supervisors, located forty miles away in the whiter and more affluent county seat of Hanford (where the public hearings took place). At that time, Kettleman City had little representation on the Planning Commission, which was mostly made up of people who did not live near the dump. The county stood to increase its revenues through taxing the landfill operators (although, as Kettleman City residents complained, precious few of those resources were reinvested in Kettleman City itself—an example of how racial capitalism functions at the county level).
El Pueblo appealed the decision to the Kings County Board of Supervisors, who upheld the incinerator approval. El Pueblo and its legal supporters at CRLA filed a class-action lawsuit against Kings County in 1991. In 1992, a superior court judge overturned the Kings County approval of the incinerator, ruling that it was based on an inadequate environmental impact report and that the public permitting process had failed to meaningfully involve the local population, since residents in the predominantly Spanish-speaking town had received the relevant documents only in English. Chemical Waste Management filed an appeal, but then withdrew the incinerator application in 1993. One activist describes the immense relief she and her friend felt after winning the protracted campaign:
[My friend] and I just cried and cried the day we got the announcement. The reporter came first to my house, saying, “Tell us what you’re doing, what’s your next this and that, your next strategy,” and then along came the general manager of Chem Waste and he comes up to us and he says, “It’s over. The lawsuit, it’s over. We’re withdrawing the plan to put in the incinerator.” I said, “What?!” He said that they are not doing the incinerator. “Oh, I gotta go see [my friend]!” And I go to [my friend’s house] and we just hugged and cried and cried. It was [many] years of struggle, you know, it was great. It was so good.
Kettleman City’s fight against the incinerator was often framed as an epic David versus Goliath battle between the largest waste management company in the country and a tiny, low-income Latinx community in a largely forgotten part of California. The activists’ victory became a symbol of the movement’s vitality and potential. It also inspired environmental justice activists across the country. The Kettleman City residents’ visits to and from other communities confronting similar problems helped activists see the bigger picture, that this was not a local but a systemic problem. This campaign thus helped nurture the broader environmental justice movement, both in California and the nation.
End of excerpt from chapter four. For the rest of this chapter, see the complete book, available at University of California Press and elsewhere.
 The landfill is managed by Chemical Waste Management, Inc., a subsidiary of Waste Management. Speakers use variations of both names (Chemical Waste, Chem Waste, and Waste Management), usually to refer to the local managers of the landfill.
 US Bureau of the Census, “ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates (Latinx population); US Bureau of the Census, “Educational Attainment” (education); and US Bureau of the Census, “Selected Economic Characteristics” (income).
 Cole and Foster, From the Ground Up; and Bullard, Confronting Environmental Racism.
 Two of these three were still in operation in 2021. Rosengren, “After It First WTE Facility Closes.” These numbers come from personal communications with Mike Ewall, executive director of Energy Justice Network, September 3 2018, and Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, March 26, 2021. Although no new commercial municipal waste incinerators have been built in the time indicated, several incinerators have been retrofitted, expanded, or built on the same site as existing incinerators since 1995. In addition, in 2017 a small, noncommercial-scale gasification incinerator was built at Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County, California. There are also two medical waste incinerators operating in California, in Paramount and Hesperian. Here I follow the activist convention of calling these modern facilities incinerators, whereas the waste industry calls them waste-to-energy facilities that “superheat” waste rather than burn it. Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, “Incinerators in Disguise.”
 Pellow, “Environmental Inequality Formation”; and Gould, Schnaiberg, and Weinberg, Local Environmental Struggles.
 Baptista and Perovich, U.S. Municipal Solid Waste Incinerators; Costner and Thornton, Playing with Fire; and White, “Hazardous Waste Incineration and Minority Communities.”
 The Cerrell Report itself does not specify race as a category by which locations for incinerators should be chosen, but many of the proposed locations were nonetheless in communities of color. Powell, “Political Difficulties Facing Waste-to-Energy Conversion Plant Siting.”
Perkins, Tracy. “The Multiple People of Color Origins of the US Environmental Justice Movement: Social Movement Spillover and Regional Racial Projects in California.” Environmental Sociology 7, no. 2 (2021): 147–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/23251042.2020.1848502.
Perkins, Tracy. “Women’s Pathways into Activism: Rethinking the Women’s Environmental Justice Narrative in California’s San Joaquin Valley.” Organization & Environment 25, no. 1 (2012): 76–94. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10 .1177/1086026612445390.
White, Harvey. “Hazardous Waste Incineration and Minority Communities.” In Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards: A Time for Discourse, edited by Bunyan Bryant and Paul Mohai, 126–39. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.
Small Shareholders and Global Radicals in Revolutionary Mexico
In the age of the New Imperialism, the world was turned inside out. The dark slumbering core of the earth was flooded with light, wrenched by fiery blasts, then hacked and dragged, bit by craggy bit, to the surface. From the forced mouths of mine shafts, its innards were scavenged. Silver, copper, and zinc were dredged out of Mexico; gold was wrested from the Yukon lands of the Klondike; and diamonds were plucked from the bowels of South Africa. From deposits of unburied iron, a new exoskeleton of rail fused together across the horizon. Railways screamed over continents with the velocity of finance, tearing new pathways of commerce and trade, and bruising the land around it. Coals disgorged from the mines of West Virginia, Colorado, and Manchuria were made radiant with fire and fed, inexhaustibly, to furnaces. Skies blackened with the spew of smokestacks. Ash drifted onto windowsills. Ash was coughed up from throats. Where forests had been felled and burned to make charcoal, this era reached deep beneath tombs, down past the ancient muck and humus to grab the earth’s vital forces. Oil that had coursed through subterranean veins was transfused into the lifeblood of modern industry. Rubber ran like devil’s milk from Congolese vines into waiting Belgian ships, becoming tires, wire insulation, and machine belts, the sinews of industrial production. From the ground, grains were coaxed to even heights over gridded fields, sheathed into uniform bushels, then loaded into gaping containers. Over rails, roads, ship lines, and pounded copper wires, goods were moved, tracked, and transubstantiated into value. This new geometry of motion was animated by global capital, but it was built and shaped by disciplined muscle. Hands, arms, backs, and thighs were lowered and bent, again and again, becoming pulsing metronomes of economic time. From the dark center of the earth at the turn of the century, capital came dripping with dirt and blood from every pore. How, some wondered, could it be otherwise? The world had been turned inside out. Could it also be turned upside down?
Across the windswept expanse of the Sonora Desert, where the Colorado River snakes through the Mexicali Valley and slips down jagged rocks before it spills into the Sea of Cortez, there, where the US border looms like a mirage, an Okinawan immigrant named Shinsei “Paul” Kōchi found internationalism. Shipwrecked and shoeless, Kōchi walked for miles in a daze. He stepped gingerly on thorny scrub and walked reverently around the discarded canteens and dried bones of those who had come before. It was to them, the “numerous and nameless,” that Kōchi dedicated his reflections in Imin no Aiwa (An Immigrant’s Sorrowful Tale).Following the river north, Kōchi searched for food, warmth, and shelter with a small band of survivors from China, Mexico, and Japan in December 1917. Worldwide, millions had fled their countries, compelled by starvation, debt, dispossession, political repression, and the ravages of the First World War. Immigrants who were not allowed to enter countries “with dignity through the front door” routinely risked their lives “breaking in through the back gate.” Those who perished were often “buried in the sea” while others “left their bones to dry on the empty desert.” As Kōchi observed, the “tragedy” of these journeys came not from heedless risk nor naïve adventurism but “a contradiction born precisely out of modern capitalist society.”
For many like Paul Kōchi, the world of 1917 was at once tragic and aflame with possibility. At twenty-eight, he and his “comrade” Seitoku Miyasato had set sail for Mexico, escaping arrest and political persecution at home. The two friends hailed from Nakijin Village in Okinawa, the largest island in a South Sea chain annexed by Japan only decades prior. Despised by mainland Japanese, Okinawans struggled against accusations of being “backwards” southerners in need of centralized political rule, strengthened work ethic, linguistic assimilation, and the abandonment of their “savage” cultural traditions. Kōchi and Miyasato were active in an underground reading group of village teachers opposed to Japanese despotism. Authorities blacklisted members upon discovering their copies of Daisan Teikoku, a journal critical of the government. Fearing repression, the pair planned to escape Okinawa, leaving their young families behind. Convinced they would return after a brief sojourn, they boarded a steamer at the port in Naha. Once aboard, Kōchi noted the “inexpressible feeling” that welled up in his fellow passengers as they looked upon the possible “last sight of their homeland” and of their loved ones. As the “unfeeling” ship set sail, Kōchi and Miyasato watched their young wives and children disappear, “looking permanently abandoned,” as the harbor receded. The men stood together on the deck, “arm still linked to arm,” until their “mountain home sank beneath the horizon.”
Internationalism, for Kōchi, began with a sense of identification. In Hawai’i, where the ship refueled, he felt profound kinship with the Indigenous Kanaka Maoli dockworkers loading and unloading cargo. He observed the first-class passengers’ delight as they threw coins at young Hawaiians, compelling them to dive into the waves chasing the sinking pocket change. He recognized that Hawai’i, “in its climate, customs, products, as well as its recent history,” was like Okinawa: a remote chain of mountainous islands inhabited by people whose language, culture, and sovereignty were all threatened from the mainland. Hawai’i, like Okinawa, was also dominated by sugarcane cultivation, a commonality that would have been apparent to the nearly ten thousand Okinawans who labored in the Hawai’ian sugarcane plantations at the time. Kōchi listened and felt profoundly moved by the musical resonance between the two cultures: “That heart-tugging farewell Aloha Oe was, in fact, the farewell song to the fleeing king of Hawaii. (Our famous Sanyamā was just such a song for the king of Okinawa.)” Such connections only deepened throughout his journey.
As the ship briefly docked in Southern California’s San Pedro harbor, Kōchi, Miyasato, and all the other Asian passengers found themselves trapped aboard. The 1917 Immigration Act and similar diplomatic agreements prevented immigrants from the so-called “barred Asiatic zone” from entering the country. Kōchi railed against these laws and against the nativism fomented during the First World War that kept Asians from ever setting “one foot down” on US soil. A flurry of indignation overtook the passengers. One Japanese man jumped overboard, desperate to reach shore. Passengers looked on in horror as the man drowned in the cold waters of the Pacific. Despondent in his confinement onboard, Kōchi stared at Catalina Island off the California coast. Slowly he began to reappraise his situation. He considered the long, violent history of US settlement and Indigenous dispossession that drove Native people like the Tongva “into the mountain recesses” to starve. He realized that if the same exclusionary nativism that was applied to him had also been “radically applied” to the United States, no settler would be allowed to set foot in the country. Kōchi condemned US immigration laws and observed that the national boundaries they maintained were themselves illegitimate. Considering the intertwined histories of racist immigration laws and rapacious settler colonialism, Kōchi imagined internationalist bonds forged through shared rage: a web of refusal seething within and against national borders.
With five hundred immigrants from Japan, India, and China still aboard, barred from entering the United States, the steamship Anyōmaru chugged south, destined for Brazil. While many in the upper decks sailed leisurely towards exotic lands and thrilling business ventures, most passengers had been coerced onboard by the churning transformations of the global economy. Since the late nineteenth century, countries newly pulled into the frenzy of modern finance saw intensified investment in extractive industries and commercialized agriculture. The subsequent evisceration of communal land holdings and subsistence farming practices had uprooted millions of peasants, including those en routefrom the “barred Asiatic zone.” Many of the Anyōmaru’s passengers were bound for contract work in the Caribbean and throughout Latin America, often following labor recruiters’ promised jobs. Japanese and Okinawan immigrants sought to join compatriots in Brazilian mining communities. Along with Chinese counterparts, they also sought contracts in places like Peru and throughout the Caribbean. The swirling chaos of colonialism and war also produced its own global circuits, dragging colonial soldiers, particularly from India, onto foreign battlefields. As their labors were conscripted into war economies, their ranks expanded in what Priyamvada Gopal describes as a “world-wide belt of insurgencies.” Radical Japanese students who called themselves “comrades of the four seas” invited Kōchi and Miyasato to join them in Cuba. The two friends had other plans. A ship’s porter had hinted about the possibility of sneaking into the United States through Mexico. This is what the pair resolved to do once the ship docked in Oaxaca.
From the moment their “feet touched down” in Mexico, Kōchi and Miyasato were immediately conscious of being “immigrants owning nothing but our bodies.” They were detained and quarantined in harrowing conditions along with other immigrants. The men looked on in horror as a prisoner from India was stripped and then doused with sulfur, his money belt stolen in the process. As they shared with him their meager funds, the man thanked them for being “Buddhas in Hell.” A few days later, several dozen Asian immigrants, including some of their fellow Okinawan villagers, joined their cell. The area was “well-known for its searing winds,” which blew through the barred windows day and night, creating “sandstorms” inside the jail. Covered in the same dust, Kōchi understood his fellow prisoners as “convicts banished to Siberia in Tsarist Russia,” a timely comparison given that Russian people had recently overthrown that Tsarist regime during the Bolshevik Revolution. The experience was not lost on the men. Given their travels, confinements, and commitments, Kōchi declared retrospectively that he and Miyasato were already “internationalists.”
Released from prison and into the heat of the Revolution, Kōchi and Miyasato (along with their Spanish-speaking countrymen) raced toward the US border. The men traversed a convulsive landscape, dancing to guitars in Mazatlán and narrowly escaping bandits as their train hugged the western coast through Culiacán. They launched a small boat out of Guayamas. For a week, they sailed north up the inlet of the Gulf of California. In a disaster, the boat caught fire, forcing all passengers to jump overboard. When they reassembled on shore, they discovered that only thirteen of the original passengers remained. Shipwrecked in the Sonoran Desert on December 2, 1917, the small group had next to no supplies. They collected “snow waters” from the Colorado River in rusty tin cans. They ripped strips of cloth and tore out their trouser pockets in vain attempts to protect their feet from sagebrush, cacti, and the cold. A crumbling biscuit was shared among the men. Tearing down the shore, Kōchi called out for his friend. His cries of “Miyasato! Miyasato!” were swallowed by the sea. The group was forced to press on.
In his travels throughout northern Mexico, Kōchi continually discovered and rediscovered internationalism. His group was saved by an Indigenous Yaqui family, who fed the men, gave them shelter, and offered them homemade leather shoes. The warmth of the family reminded him of home. He encountered a French trader who smuggled him to the border under a pile of hay to avoid the eyes of Mexican guards. This kindness, he said, “was surely internationalism.” When Kōchi finally reached the border, it was a group of Chinese immigrant workers who met him. Wrote Kōchi, “It seemed that for them we were all immigrants travelling the same road and they understood our situation from their hearts. This ‘class consciousness’ cuts across race and nationality and promotes mutual understanding which, if preserved and extended, would make the deserts bloom.”
Paul Kōchi’s story demonstrates how the uprooted, dispossessed, and despised of the world came to know each other in shadows, in the tangled spaces of expulsion, extraction, transportation, debt, exploitation, and destruction: the garroting circuits of modern capital. Whether crammed in tight ship quarters; knocking together over the rails; sweating and swaying in the relentless tempo of industrial agriculture; inhaling the dank air of mine shafts; hearing each other breathing, coughing, fighting, singing, snoring, and sighing through thin walls; or corralled like livestock in jails and prisons, the contradictions of modern capital were shared in its intimate spaces. Within such sites, people discovered that the circuits of revolution, like the countervailing circuits of capital, were realizable in motion, often through unplanned assemblages. Roaring at their backs were the revolutionary currents of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, currents that howled from the metropolitan hearts of empire and wailed across the peripheries of the global world system. Standing before them, in the middle of its own revolution, was Mexico. From the vantage point of these struggles, the new century did not simply portend the inevitability of urban revolts and insurgencies at the point of production, but an epoch of peasant wars, rural uprisings, anti-colonial movements, and, of course, the Mexican Revolution. Mexico, as both a real country and an imagined space of revolution, would become a crucible of internationalism for the world’s “rebels” like Paul Kōchi.
Paul Kōchi’s Imin no Aiwa presents internationalism as nearly an inevitable phenomenon. By narrating his path from Okinawa to the United States through Mexico, Kōchi describes how travel along the contradictory routes newly limned by capital and imperialism enabled him to acquire a radical global consciousness. In describing his encounters with Indigenous people and other immigrants along the way, he offers a sense of how such consciousness could be produced through the contradictory social spaces of ships, trains, boats, in detention, and through covert passage across Mexico towards the US border. Kōchi’s story offers an important perspective into the relationship between the political economy of the period and the formation of a revolutionary consciousness. In this, Kōchi was not alone.
The transformation of the global economy certainly set the stage for the development of an internationalist consciousness. But if all that was required for internationalism were the conditions of a hard journey, the world would be full of internationalists. As significant as Kōchi’s travels were, there were far more people who lived during the era of the Mexican Revolution, who even came to Mexico at the time, who did not become internationalists. This was particularly true for the fortune hunters who arrived seeking land, fame, or wealth in the country in spite of the many radical possibilities presented by the Revolution. This was also true for many Asian immigrants like Kōchi, particularly Chinese immigrants who suffered extraordinary violence and repression at the hands of state and non-state actors. The paths of those who came, saw, but chose moderate or outright reactionary paths reveal some of the fetters inhibiting the making of internationalism. This chapter explores both these possibilities and barriers.
In the era of its Revolution, Mexico represented multiple configurations of space: it was simultaneously a fixed place on the map, a place made meaningful relative to the places it bordered or was connected to through roads, rails, and ports, and it was also an imagined space, upon which multiple competing fantasies were projected. The chapter considers the experiences of radicals who lived in, traveled to, or found themselves in Mexico during the during the fighting phase of the Revolution, 1910–20. The collective act of making new worlds, as they discovered, required a reckoning with the seductions of nationalism, the social relations of imperialism, and the spatial imaginaries of capital. Internationalism, in other words, had to be forged, not simply found. To do so, as this chapter shows, it had to compete with the enticements of the color line, the racist and gendered fantasies of the New Imperialism.
 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes (New York: Penguin Books,  1990), 926; Rosa, Luxemburg, Accumulation of Capital (London: Routledge, 2003); David Montgomery, Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State and American Labor Activism, 1865–1925 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 70; John Tully, Devil’s Milk: A Social History of Rubber (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011); Arthur Conan Doyle, Crime of the Congo. (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1909); Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1972).
 Quotes come from Paul Shinsei Kōchi, Imin No Aiwa (An Immigrant’s Sorrowful Tale), trans. Ben Kobashigawa (Los Angeles: Privately printed, 1978). There are minor differences between this version and the version written in June 1938 and republished as Shinshei Kōchi, “Sad Tale of an Immigrant: Dedicated to the Souls of the Departed,” in History of the Okinawans in North America, trans. Ben Kobashigawa (Los Angeles: Okinawan Club of America and the Asian American Studies Center, University of California, 1988), 524–540. Where relevant, these differences will be noted.
 In the 1978 publication of Imin no Aiwa, Kōchi describes setting off: “At four in the afternoon on September 2 in the 7th year of the Taishō era (1918), we rebels boarded the Taigimaru bound for Kobi” (19). But the 1988 edition describes the graffiti Kōchi scribbles on the wall of the Salina Cruz detention center as a note signed “November 1917” and later a message on a rock dated “December 1917” (528, 532).
 On “backwardness” and “savage” and for debates on Okinawa’s colonial status, see Alan S. Christy, “The Making of Imperial Subjects in Okinawa,” in Formations of Colonial Modernity in East Asia, ed. Tani E. Barlow(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 141–70, and Julia Yonetani, “Ambiguous Traces and the Politics of Sameness: Placing Okinawa in Meiji Japan,” Japanese Studies 20, no. 1 (2000): 15–31. For a discussion of Japan in the context of Gramsci’s “Southern Question,” see Harry Harootunian, “Some Reflections on Gramsci: The Southern Question in the Deprovincializing of Marx,” in Gramsci in the World,ed. Frederic Jameson and Robert M. Dainotto (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020), 140–57.
 Kōchi, Imin No Aiwa, 20; Chushichi Tsuzuki, The Pursuit of Power in Modern Japan, 1825–1995 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000)192; Chushichi Tsuzuki, “The Changing Image of Britain among Japanese Intellectuals,” in The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations 1600–2000: Social and Cultural Perspectives, ed. Gordon Daniels and Chushichi Tsuzuki (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 17–40.
 Kōchi, Imin No Aiwa,21, 33; Mamoru Akamine, The Ryukyu Kingdom: Cornerstone of East Asia, trans. Lina Terrell, ed. Robert N. Huey(Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016), 140; Richard Siddle, “Colonialism and Identity in Okinawa Before 1945,” Japanese Studies 18, no. 2 (1998): 121–22; James E. Roberson, “Singing Diaspora: Okinawan Songs of Home, Departure, and Return,” Identities 17, no. 4 (2010): 430–53; J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008); Edith Mitsuko Kaneshiro, “‘Our home will be the five continents’: Okinawan Migration to Hawaii, California, and the Philippines, 1899–1941” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1999), 116; Adria L. Imada, “‘Aloha ‘Oe’”: Settler-Colonial Nostalgia and the Genealogy of a Love Song,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 37, no. 2 (2013): 35–52; Michael Denning, Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution (New York: Verso, 2015), 35–67.
 Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 18.
 Kōchi, Imin No Aiwa, 33. For intertwined histories of immigrant exclusion and settler colonialism see Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Not “A Nation of Immigrants”: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion (Boston: Beacon, 2021). On refusal to consent to colonial mappings and occupations of territory, seeAudra Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 128. Mahmood Mamdani suggests placing US settler-colonialism into a “global-historical” standpoint as a precursor to decolonization in Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020), 98–99.
 Priyamvada Gopal, Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent (London: Verso, 2019), 209.
 Grace Peña Delgado, Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Localism, and Exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013); Edith M. Kaneshiro, “Communists, Christians, and Japanese Imperial Subjects: Okinawan Immigrants within the Japanese Diaspora, 1899 to 1941,” in Studies in Pacific History: Economics, Politics, and Migration, ed. Dennis O. Flynn, Arturo Giráldez, and James Sobredo(London: Routledge, 2018), 170–87.
 Kōchi, Imin no Aiwa, 23. Since there is a discrepancy over the date of the voyage, the nature of the quarantine is unclear. If the trip occurred at the end of 1917, the quarantine would have been for typhus. If it occurred at the end of 1918, it would have been for the Spanish Flu pandemic. See Ryan M. Alexander, “The Fever of War: Epidemic Typhus and Public Health in Revolutionary Mexico City, 1915–1917,” Hispanic American Historical Review 100, no. 1 (2020): 63–92; Ryan M. Alexander, “The Spanish Flu and the Sanitary Dictatorship: Mexico’s Response to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic,” The Americas 76. no. 3 (July 2019): 443–65.
 For the debates about the disjuncture between nineteenth-century revolutionary political predictions and twentieth-century revolutionary conditions, see Cedric J. Robinson, An Anthropology of Marxism (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001), 153; Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (London: Verso, 2007), 174; Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World (London: Verso, 2002), 207–9; Mike Davis, “Old Gods, New Enigmas,” Catalyst 1, no. 2 (2017): 7–40.For a discussion of the insufficiency of the “transnational” designation, see Arif Dirlik, “Performing the World: Reality and Representation in the Making of World Histor(ies),” Journal of World History 16, no. 4 (December 2005): 391–410. Dirlik notes, “Ethnic and diasporic spaces are prime examples in our day of such spaces that are often described, somewhat misleadingly in my opinion, as ‘transnational’ spaces. Such spaces preceded in their existence the emergence of nations; they may not be of equal significance to all parts of the nation, in which case they may help undermine its unity and homogeneity, and they are quite likely to outlast the nation as we have known it” (397).
 For many Asian immigrants like Kōchi, especially many Chinese people, the question of internationalism in relation to the Mexican Revolution was a vexed one. East Asians were unevenly incorporated into state-building and capitalist development projects. As Jason Oliver Chang notes, Chinese immigrants were largely regarded as disposable labor or motores de sangre (engines of blood) under the Porfiriato and then later reimagined as threats to the state and killable subjects at different points during the Revolution. See Jason Oliver Chang, Chino: Anti-Chinese Racism in Mexico, 1880–1940 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 8, 71–87; Robert Chao Romero, The Chinese in Mexico, 1882–1940 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012); María Elena Ota Mishima, Destino México: un estudio de las Migraciones Asiáticas a México, siglos XIX y XX. Mexico D.F.: Colegio de Mexico Centro de Estudios de Asia y Africa, 1997.
Christina Heatherton is an American Studies scholar and historian of anti-racist social movements. She is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Human Rights at Trinity College.
In their introduction to the anthology Goth: Undead Subculture, Lauren M. E. Goodlad and Michael Bibby identify Sioux as one of goth’s founding figures. They write that Sioux, “who began her career as a gothic doyenne in the Sex Pistols’ scene, helped to popularize a look characterized by deathly pallor, dark makeup, Weimar-era decadence, and Nazi chic” (2007, 1). While one might take issue with their conflation of Sioux’s styles that span a significant period of time (particularly when her adoption of “Nazi chic” was an early, brief, and much regretted move that assented to the miscalculated punk attempt at subversiveness by wielding the swastika on an armband or T-shirt), Goodlad and Bibby are right to note her significant role in popularizing what we now understand as goth. However, on numerous occasions, Sioux and Banshees bassist Steven Severin have commented on their association with goth, often times referring to it as “goff” to signal a clichéd performance that has flattened rather than highlighted the nuances underscoring the band’s music. As Sioux asserts, “Gothic in its purest sense is actually a very powerful, twisted genre, but the way it was being used by journalists—‘goff’ with a double ‘f’—always seemed to me to be about tacky harum scarum horror and I find that anything but scary. That wasn’t what we were about at all. There was something hippie about it too. Juju [the Banshees’ fourth and undeniably most critically acclaimed album] did have a horror theme to it, but it was psychological horror, nothing to do with ghosts and ghouls” (Paytress 2003, 106, emphasis added). Noting that they were “reading a lot of Edgar Allan Poe at the time” (107), Severin admits that while the band indeed described Juju as “gothic” upon the album’s release, journalists had not picked up on or immediately classified the music and the band as such. Cited as a key influence on subsequent artists, Sioux clarifies that the “strong identity” of Juju was diluted: “The goth bands that came in our wake tried to mimic [us]. They were using horror as the basis for stupid rock ’n’ roll pantomime” (107).
While the “psychological horror” characteristic of the album and much of the band’s music runs more in the vein of The Twilight Zone than Dracula (or as one-time Banshees guitarist John McGeoch recalls, “More blood dripping on a daisy than scary beast sinking its fangs into its victim” (Paytress 2003, 107), it is also about the everyday alienation experienced by those on the periphery. Indeed, Severin notes that the track “Halloween,” which based on title alone may seem to conjure that yearly celebration’s attendant ghosts and ghouls, is based on a revelation the bassist had as a six-year-old: “I suddenly realised that I was a separate person. I was no longer simply a part of things. And once you realise that, you’ve lost a certain innocence.” As the lyrics substantiate, “‘Trick or treat’ / The bitter and the sweet / The carefree days / Are distant now.” And while Siouxsie became, as Mark Paytress points out, “a style icon for a generation of ambitious, thrill-seeking young women” who visually emulated their rebellious idol, she and the Banshees sounded a marshaling call for outsiders everywhere to stand and be counted. Recounting how she was bullied daily at school as a child, Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson saw in Siouxsie a rebel with whom she could identify, and the Banshees’ music provided the stimulus for converting her disenfranchisement into the feeling that she could rule the world. Moreover, in her foreword to Paytress’s biography, Manson reasons that miscategorizing the band as goth dulls the “real edge” of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Their music, she maintains, reveals “so much articulated spite, humour and politics with a small ‘p’” while refusing to perambulate “down that simple, gloomy path” (Paytress 2003, 9).
In the band’s assessment of Juju and its contested gothic impulse, what I find most remarkable is Severin’s following confession: “If there was a band that influenced what we did on Juju it was The Cramps. Not musically, because they were much more rooted in straightforward rock ’n’ roll, but in terms of some of their imagery and the way they came across” (Paytress 2003, 107). The Cramps—described by one journalist as “the scariest band of all time” (Tashjian 2018)—were an American punk band that began to take shape in Akron, Ohio, in 1974 and took flight the following year in New York City. Consisting of the husband-and-wife combo of vocalist Lux Interior and bassist Poison Ivy, along with guitarist Bryan Gregory and numerous drummers in their early years, the Cramps—after making a momentous impact on the formative New York punk scene and playing noted venues like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City—relocated to Los Angeles in 1980. According to Ivy, “We didn’t move to LA because the scene was in LA, it was because there was no scene any more that there was no reason to stay in New York” (Porter 2015, 163). And at that time, Lux notes, “New York [was] concentrating on British bands or out of town bands” (163). Indeed, 1980 was the year Siouxsie and the Banshees would first tour the United States.
Severin’s aforementioned comment that the Banshees drew influence from the Cramps makes sense for how the former crafted their persona after the latter, based not on their music but on their “imagery” and “how they came across.” When comparing the image of the Cramps and Siouxsie and the Banshees, what becomes apparent at this particular moment is that they both boasted an undeniable psychedelic aesthetic that flew in the face of an assumed perpetual adornment of all-black gear. One might also point to Ivy’s and Siouxsie’s teased big hair or both bands’ affinity for classic horror and psychological thriller films (which, despite each group’s distinct musical styles noted by Severin, is titularly registered by the Banshees’ “Spellbound” and the Cramps’ “I Was a Teenage Werewolf ”). And like the Banshees, “The Cramps were a fully formed vision. People think, ‘Ooh horror movies, and ooh black.’ But no, it’s so much more than that. . . . It was a whole lifestyle. A manifesto” (“Kid Congo Powers Oral History” 2005). In view of their association, I want to signal another link between the two bands: the bond shared by Siouxsie and the Cramps’ one-time guitarist, Kid Congo Powers.
The same year Siouxsie and the Banshees first toured the States, Kid (né Brian Tristan), a third-generation Mexican American born in La Puente, California, joined the Cramps to replace Bryan Gregory on guitar. Introduced to a variety of musical traditions and genres from his family, Kid recalls hearing Mexican rancheras at weekend family parties and bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (and “low-rider music, doo wop, oldies, a lot of soul and funk music, a lot of Santana, Jimi Hendrix, and Black Sabbath”) while growing up. A thirteen-year-old “big magazine hound” who pored over the pages of Creem and Rock Scene, he learned of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, the New York Dolls, Television, Patti Smith, and others defining the 1970s New York City glam and emergent punk scene, eventually becoming the Ramones fan club president. In 1977, the seventeen-year-old Brian traveled with a school group to Europe. With London as one stop on the trip, he and a friend split off from their peers “and just went to concerts the whole time and sought out punk rock record stores.” As he recalls, “I went to this club, the Vortex Club, and I saw the Slits play and different bands. And the Clash were hanging out and Siouxsie and it was all very very very exciting. I was like seventeen—not even eighteen yet. And I got a punk rock haircut and came back to NY at the time and saw the Dead Boys and the Heartbreakers and went to CBGB’s and went back to LA quite informed with what was going on” (“Kid Congo Powers Oral History” 2005).
A devoted fan of the Cramps, the twenty-year-old Kid was beyond elated when invited to join the band as their guitarist upon Gregory’s departure. Renamed “Kid Congo Powers” by Poison Ivy and Lux Interior from a Santeria candle with the inscription “When you light this candle, Congo powers will be revealed to you,” Tristan added “Kid” because he “thought it sounded like a boxer or a pirate” (Porter 2007, 87–88). Appearing on two of the band’s signature releases—Psychedelic Jungle (1981) and the live mini-album Smell of Female (1984)—he remained with the Cramps until September 1983. In an illuminating 2005 oral history with the online publication New York Night Train, Kid details his abiding relationship with Siouxsie over the duration of his membership with the Cramps, the Gun Club (the LA-based country/cow punk/post-punk band to which he was recruited by longtime El Monte friend and collaborator Jeffrey Lee Pierce, who in his book Go Tell the Mountain identifies Siouxsie and the Banshees as “friends more or less” [(1998) 2017, 45]), and Fur Bible (a collaborative endeavor with Patricia Morrison—bassist and cofounder of the Bags and later a member of the Sisters of Mercy—and drummer Desperate). In Kid’s words:
We had been friends with Siouxsie for a long time. I had actually met Siouxsie and the Banshees, the whole band, when I was in the Cramps and we did some shows together and I befriended them. Billy Holston, who was their assistant, right-hand man—he’s the guy who made the Fur Bible cover, the artwork on that—he was a champion of our band. And he suggested it to them. And the Gun Club had played some shows with the Banshees as well and they were big fans of the Gun Club. And so they asked us to go on a tour with them and of course we said yes. And that was good because they were really popular at the time. We played at the Royal Albert Hall, where Bob Dylan played, and we played at big theaters everywhere in England. I guess we went over OK. I don’t remember. (“Kid Congo Powers Oral History” 2005)
After the Gun Club’s split in 1984, Fur Bible lent their support to the Banshees, opening a number of shows for the Tinderbox tour. From their reformation two years later in 1986 until their final days in 1996, Siouxsie remained a fan and friend to both the band and Kid.
In Donna Santisi’s landmark book of photographs, Ask the Angels (originally published in 1978 and redistributed in 2010), Kid and Siouxsie are captured together during a 1982 visit to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Santisi provides the backstory:
One day Siouxsie Sioux wanted to go to Disneyland. It was Sioux, Kid Congo, Marcy Blaustein, Randy Kaye, and me. Sioux was really excited when we got there but once we were on Main Street, two security men came up to her and told her she had to leave. They said that she looked like an attraction and it would confuse the people in the park. Siouxsie was telling the men that she just wanted to see everything and go on the rides. They finally agreed that Sioux could stay if she covered up with Randy’s raincoat. We were followed all day by several security people with walkie talkies.
Capturing Sioux’s delight in absorbing the sights and attractions of Disneyland, Santisi’s photography, as Kid keenly notes, “catches the subject matter at ease, casual, yet exciting” (Santisi  2010, 32). Since encountering these photos, I have diligently studied their details. Not only do they index the globally recognized theme park I’ve visited since childhood, given its location in the next city over from where I grew up, but they register an unmistakable intimacy between Siouxsie Sioux and Kid Congo Powers.
In the two photos reproduced in Santisi’s book—one in which they flank the walkaround character Br’er Fox culled from the animated sequences of the Disney film Song of the South (Foster and Jackson 1946) and the other capturing the two sharing a ride on the Tomorrowland Rocket Jets—Kid and Siouxsie, with their almost identical big, black manes, recall Severin’s comparison of the Banshees and the Cramps. In this instance, though, the Cramps are represented by this Chicano from the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte whose discernable brownness contrasts with his friend’s pallid complexion, yet his chosen aesthetic categorically matches that of the former suburban Bromley recluse turned Ice Queen. With Disneyland—a wider-scale Wonderland of sorts—serving as one spatial point of contact, Kid and Siouxsie’s post-punk transatlantic intimacy manifests in Santisi’s photos that connote unequivocal joy and affection. Apparent in the discernable touch shared by Siouxsie and Kid in the small space of the jet, one may also, following Tina Campt (2017), listen to this image to hear their respective bands’ sonic intimacy. And I can’t help but imagine my ten-year-old self at nearby Disneyland on the same day as Siouxsie and Kid, admiring these outcast and defiant figures whose names I would learn three years later from music magazines, not unlike those publications the young Brian Tristan, also as a thirteen-year-old queer Chicano Southern California kid, intently read with the information discovered on their pages solidly committed to memory.
Troy Andreas Araiza Kokinis, in his poignant essay “El Monte’s Wildweed: Biraciality and the Punk Ethos of the Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce,” writes about the “otherness” uniquely experienced by Kid and Pierce (whose mother was Mexican and who felt at home in Southern California Mexican American culture) in relation to the punk and alternative music scenes. For Kid, Kokinis writes, “the Hollywood punk scene” was “a site of refuge for weirdos and outsiders of all types, including racialized people and gender queers,” whereas Pierce, despite “being a white-passing biracial Chicano,” “remained uncomfortable with whiteness throughout his life” (2020, 237, 238). Yet Kid, noting his inability to pass as white, concedes his incessant outcast status: “America is white culture and Anglo culture. No matter how I do not even speak Spanish; I was raised as anyone would be in LA. But you still feel like an outsider” (238). With the combined dimension of his queer sexuality, Kid declares a “built-in otherness and built-in bucking the system,” thus prompting his ability to “shine and belong, to others” (238). Given her history as a social outcast and her alliances forged with kindred outsiders like those making up “the Bromley Contingent,” Siouxsie’s bond with Kid Congo Powers makes complete sense not only with respect to their mutual admiration as artists but also based on the affinitive alignment of a gay Chicano man in a predominantly white subculture and a woman fronting an all-male band in a mostly male music scene. And while the body of writing about the participation of queers and people of color in punk contexts in either the US or the UK has exponentially grown, there’s also much to be said about the relationships cultivated between American musicians of color and British post-punk artists in these often-overlapping music scenes.
 Chapter 3, focused on the Northampton band Bauhaus, engages in a more thorough discussion of goth, particularly around the 1979 single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” their most famous song, considered by many the first goth record and the unofficial goth anthem. Siouxsie has on more than one occasion expressed her regret for wearing the swastika, primarily on an armband. As she explains, “Maybe I had been naïve in thinking people would understand what I was doing with the swastika. I must have been, because we started to get a lot of National Front skinheads turning up to gigs. They used to piss me off so much. I tried everything to stop them coming, drawing attention to them and slagging them off, even stopping a gig and beating the shit out of them a few times. But they just wouldn’t fuck off. I was so pissed off that I decided to use another equally strong symbol, the Star of David, which would completely alienate the idiots. When we played this gig in Derby, we tried everything to stop them, but nothing seemed to work. So we went off stage, put the ‘Israel’ T-shirts on and did ‘Drop Dead’ with the lights spotlighting them. It was fantastic. The whole audience felt empowered and turned on them” (Paytress 2003, 104). Despite adopting the Star of David on T-shirts and for their single “Israel” (and featuring “Red over White” on the B-side) as “an atonement” and writing the song “Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)” in the memory of anti-Nazi visual artist John Heartfield, journalists and scholars continued to take note of the too-casual incorporation of Nazi imagery in punk contexts of which Siouxsie was a part. For a discussion on Sioux’s range of styles, see Kevin Petty (1995), “The Image of Siouxsie Sioux: Punk and the Politics of Gender”; and Simon Reynolds and Joy Press, The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock ’n’ Roll, which notes how Sioux’s “career has consisted of an endless succession of costume changes and sexual personae” (1995, 291). Lucy O’Brien’s ( 2020) foundational She Bop also provides an excellent arch for assessing Siouxsie’s initially controversial public image to her sui generis role in the British punk and post-punk scenes.
 Severin’s words are from the liner notes written by Mark Paytress for Polydor’s 2006 remastered cd release of Juju.
 The persistence of the Siouxsie clone extends into the recent present, as illustrated in a 2013 episode of the American sketch comedy television series Portlandia, where the character Alexandra models herself after Siouxsie, hilariously mispronouncing her name “Suxie Sux.”
 Taken from Manson’s interview in The Queens of British Pop (Newton 2009).
 These songs are no doubt nods to Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) and Gene Fowler Jr.’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957).
 For additional information, see “Kid Congo Powers Oral History” (2005).
 For an insightful local history of Kid Congo Powers, see Melissa Hidalgo (2021), “Gente from La Puente: Underground Punk Icon Kid Congo Powers Still Rocks.”
 John Wombat’s (2018) The Cramps, Beast and Beyond: A Book about Bryan Gregory provides an insightful account of Gregory’s personal history.
 Additional Santisi photos of the Disneyland visit can be found in Ray Stevenson’s (1986) Siouxsie and the Banshees: Photo Book, although they are reproduced in a much smaller scale. I thank Donna Santisi for clarifying that her photos were taken in January 1982.
 This Santisi quote is taken from an interview with Alice Bag (2016).
 For an interesting analysis that understands Kid Congo Powers’s future embrace of the vampire (and hus tallying another example of what she calls the “Chicano Dracula” figure) see Paloma Martinez-Cruz (2020), “Chicano Dracula: The Passions and Predations of Bela Lugosi, Gomez Addams, and Kid Congo Powers.” Martinez-Cruz’s argument about Kid Congo Powers-as-vampire superbly assists in refusing his categorization as some standard-issue goth.
 In the case of the former, see Alice Bag’s (2011) excellent autobiography Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story; Jayna Brown (2011), “‘Brown Girl in the Ring’: Poly Styrene, Anabella Lwin, and the Politics of Anger”; Michelle Cruz Gonzales (2016), The Spit Boy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band; Colin Gunckel (2017), “‘People Think We’re Weird ’Cause We’re Queer’: Art Meets Punk in Los Angeles”; and Celeste Bell and Zoë Howe (2019), Dayglo! The Poly Styrene Story.
As long-time readers of Boom California, it has been an honor to work with artists, writers, poets, student interns, and scholars to think deeply about California’s past, present, and future. Raised East of East Los Angeles to migrant parents from neighboring colonias in Guadalajara (via neighboring ranchos in Zacatecas), we worked hard to center overlooked communities, cities, and regions, as well as voices. Like many parents, we did our best to balance work and childcare during a global pandemic and to mourn those we lost in the last three years. We appreciate your patience and the invaluable work of peer-reviewers.
We’re thrilled to announce that Boom California will continue under the visionary editorship of Dr. Ofelia Cuevas and be housed at UC Davis. A third-generation Californian and Ethnic Studies scholar, Dr. Cuevas brings a commitment to theory and praxis. Her work on state violence and incarceration has been published in journals like American Quarterly, PUBLIC, and edited books such as Black and Brown Los Angeles: A Contemporary Reader (UC Press, 2013). She is currently directing a California focused campus wide initiative for formerly incarcerated and system impacted students. She is also the recipient of a UCOP Multicampus Research Grant which will excavate the historical connections of The Organization of Solidarity of the People of Africa, Asia, and Latin America (OSPAAAL) political print art with political print art in California and the West. Lastly, she is working on her second book titled, A Consideration of the West: California and the Geo-Historical Shift of the US.
Romeo Guzmán will stay on as editor-at-large, Carribean Fragoza will become the poetry and creative non-fiction editor, and Claremont Graduate University PhD student Daniel Talamantes will step in as an editorial assistant. We hope that you will continue to read and support Boom California.